To examine the cytocidal effect of sodium nitrite on the cancer cell, we subjected human gastric adenocarcinoma epithelia (AGS) cells to various experimentation following exposure to sodium nitrite, and measured the resulting changes in the levels of cell death, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release, and caspase-3, -6, -8, and -9 activities. Our data revealed that, in AGS cells, treatment with ≥6.25 mM sodium nitrite for 8 h resulted in an obvious increase in cell death. LDH release was also markedly increased following sodium nitrite treatment, but at a concentration of ≥6.25 mM for 24 h. This increasing trend showed a positive correlation (r = 0.9564, P < 0.05). In addition, we detected pronounced increases in caspase activities with various concentrations of sodium nitrite: caspase-3 at ≥25 mM for 1 h, ≥12.5 mM for 3 h and 6 h; caspase-9 at 50 mM for 1 h and 3 h, and ≥6.25 mM for 6 h; and caspase-6 at 50 mM for 1 h and 3 h. We did not however, detect any observable increase in the activity of caspase-8 following sodium nitrite treatment at any concentration or for any duration of treatment in this study. This data demonstrates that, in AGS cells, higher concentrations or longer durations of treatment with sodium nitrite could exhibit a cytocidal effect, and that sodium nitrite could induce apoptosis via activation of the caspase-9, caspase-3 cascade (intrinsic pathway) and caspase-6.
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