Effect of soluble nickel on cellular energy metabolism in A549 cells

Haobin Chen, Max Costa

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35 Scopus citations


Iron is an essential nutrient to most organisms, and is actively involved in oxygen delivery, electron transport, DNA synthesis, and many other biochemical reactions important for cell survival. We previously reported that nickel (Ni) ion exposure decreases cellular iron level and converts cytosolic aconitase (c-aconitase) to iron-regulatory protein-1 in A549 cells (Chen H, Davidson T, Singleton S, Garrick MD, Costa M. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 206:275-287, 2005). Here, we further investigated the effect of Ni ion exposure on the activity of mitochondrial iron-sulfur (Fe-S) enzymes and cellular energy metabolism. We found that acute Ni ion treatment up to 1 mM exhibits minimal toxicity in A549 cells. Ni ion treatment decreases the activity of several Fe-S enzymes related to cellular energy metabolism, including mitochondrial aconitase (m-aconitase), succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), and NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I). Low doses of Ni ion for 4 weeks resulted in an increased cellular glycolysis and NADH to NAD+ (NADH/NAD+) ratio, although glycolysis was inhibited at higher levels. Collectively, our results show that Ni ions decrease the activity of cellular iron (Fe)-containing enzymes, inhibit oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos), and increase cellular glycolytic activity. Since increased glycolysis is one of the fundamental alterations of energy metabolism in cancer cells (the Warburg effect), the inhibition of Fe-S enzymes and subsequent changes in cellular energy metabolism caused by Ni ions may play an important role in Ni carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1474-1480
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2006


  • Fe-S enzymes
  • Glycolysis
  • NADH/NAD ratio
  • Oxidative phosphorylation


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