Treatment of tumor cells with cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) or with plasma-activated medium (PAM) leads to a biochemical imprint on these cells. This imprint is mediated by primary singlet oxygen, which is mainly generated through the interaction between CAP-derived H2O2 and NO2 −. This imprint is induced with a low efficiency as local inactivation of a few membrane-associated catalase molecules. As sustained generation of secondary singlet oxygen by the tumor cells is activated at the site of the imprint, a rapid bystander effect-like spreading of secondary singlet oxygen generation and catalase inactivation within the cell population is thus induced. This highly dynamic process is essentially driven by NOX1 and NOS of the tumor cells, and finally leads to intercellular RONS-driven apoptosis induction. This dynamic process can be studied by kinetic analysis, combined with the use of specific inhibitors at defined time intervals. Alternatively, it can be demonstrated and quantified by transfer experiments, where pretreated cells are mixed with untreated cells and bystander signaling is determined. These studies allow to conclude that the specific response of tumor cells to generate secondary singlet oxygen is the essential motor for their self-destruction, after a singlet oxygen-mediated triggering process by CAP or PAM.
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