Potential interaction of cadmium chloride with pancreatic mitochondria: Implications for pancreatic cancer

David R. Wallace, Demetrios A. Spandidos, Aristidis Tsatsakis, Amie Schweitzer, Vladimir Djordjevic, Aleksandra Buha Djordjevic

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37 Scopus citations


Pancreatic cancer (PC) is insidious with a high mortality rate due to the lack of symptomology prior to diagnosis. Mitochondrial involvement in PC development is becoming accepted, and exposure to cadmium (Cd) is suspected of being a risk factor for the development of PC; however, the mechanisms involved remain unclear. In this study, we examined the role of Cd as a mitochondrial toxicant and whether alterations in mitochondrial function may be an underlying cause for the development of PC. In this study, cadmium chloride (CdCl2)-mediated toxicity in hTERT-HPNE and AsPC-1 pancreatic cell lines was determined by MTT assay. We also investigated the release of LDH and the generation of free radicals. Mitochondrial toxicity assays were performed in media containing glucose (25 mM) or galactose (10 mM) and following exposure to CdCl2 (0-100 µM) followed by MTT assay. For the confirmation of mitochondrial toxicity, we measured the release of ATP following exposure to CdCl2. Initial experiments confirmed that exposure to CdCl2 did not reduce the viability of either cell line until a concentration of >10 µM was used. Non-linear analysis of the response curves revealed lethal concentration 50% (LC50) values for CdCl2 in the HPNE cells of 77 µM compared to 42 µM in the AsPC-1 cells (P<0.01). The CdCl2-mediated mitochondrial toxic effects were greater in the HPNE cells, suggesting a heightened sensitivity to the effects of CdCl2, not due to elevated oxidative stress. Increased mitochondrial toxic sensitivity was indicated by a 73.4% reduction in IC50 values in the HPNE cells cultured in galactose compared to culture in glucose media, whereas the AsPC-1 cells exhibited a 58.8% reduction in IC50 values. In addition, the higher concentration of CdCl2 elicited a significant cell-dependent effect on ATP release in both cell lines, suggestive of CdCl2 being a mitochondrial toxicant. Cell survival was unaffected following exposure to low concentrations of CdCl2; however, exposure did alter mitochondrial function (control cells > tumor cells). Therefore, the findings of this study indicate that the mitochondria may be a site of action for cadmium in promoting tumor development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-156
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Cadmium
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Glycolysis
  • Oxidative phosphorylation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Warburg effect


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