Medical College of Wisconsin
CTSICores SearchResearch InformaticsREDCap

Redox-crippled MitoQ potently inhibits breast cancer and glioma cell proliferation: A negative control for verifying the antioxidant mechanism of MitoQ in cancer and other oxidative pathologies. Free Radic Biol Med 2023 Aug 20;205:175-187



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85162228734 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   1 Citation


Mitochondria-targeted coenzyme Q10 (Mito-ubiquinone, Mito-quinone mesylate, or MitoQ) was shown to be an effective antimetastatic drug in patients with triple-negative breast cancer. MitoQ, sold as a nutritional supplement, prevents breast cancer recurrence. It potently inhibited tumor growth and tumor cell proliferation in preclinical xenograft models and in vitro breast cancer cells. The proposed mechanism of action involves the inhibition of reactive oxygen species by MitoQ via a redox-cycling mechanism between the oxidized form, MitoQ, and the fully reduced form, MitoQH2 (also called Mito-ubiquinol). To fully corroborate this antioxidant mechanism, we substituted the hydroquinone group (-OH) with the methoxy group (-OCH3). Unlike MitoQ, the modified form, dimethoxy MitoQ (DM-MitoQ), lacks redox-cycling between the quinone and hydroquinone forms. DM-MitoQ was not converted to MitoQ in MDA-MB-231 cells. We tested the antiproliferative effects of both MitoQ and DM-MitoQ in human breast cancer (MDA-MB-231), brain-homing cancer (MDA-MB-231BR), and glioma (U87MG) cells. Surprisingly, DM-MitoQ was slightly more potent than MitoQ (IC50 = 0.26 μM versus 0.38 μM) at inhibiting proliferation of these cells. Both MitoQ and DM-MitoQ potently inhibited mitochondrial complex I-dependent oxygen consumption (IC50 = 0.52 μM and 0.17 μM, respectively). This study also suggests that DM-MitoQ, which is a more hydrophobic analog of MitoQ (logP: 10.1 and 8.7) devoid of antioxidant function and reactive oxygen species scavenging ability, can inhibit cancer cell proliferation. We conclude that inhibition of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation by MitoQ is responsible for inhibition of breast cancer and glioma proliferation and metastasis. Blunting the antioxidant effect using the redox-crippled DM-MitoQ can serve as a useful negative control in corroborating the involvement of free radical-mediated processes (e.g., ferroptosis, protein oxidation/nitration) using MitoQ in other oxidative pathologies.

Author List

Cheng G, Karoui H, Hardy M, Kalyanaraman B


Gang Cheng PhD Assistant Professor in the Biophysics department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Micael Joel Hardy PhD Visiting Assistant Professor in the Biophysics department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Balaraman Kalyanaraman PhD Professor in the Biophysics department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Breast Neoplasms
Cell Proliferation
Organophosphorus Compounds
Oxidative Stress
Reactive Oxygen Species