SLC7A11 expression level dictates differential responses to oxidative stress in cancer cells

Yuelong Yan, Hongqi Teng, Qinglei Hang, Lavanya Kondiparthi, Guang Lei, Amber Horbath, Xiaoguang Liu, Chao Mao, Shiqi Wu, Li Zhuang, M. James You, Masha V. Poyurovsky, Li Ma, Kellen Olszewski, Boyi Gan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The cystine transporter solute carrier family 7 member 11 (SLC7A11; also called xCT) protects cancer cells from oxidative stress and is overexpressed in many cancers. Here we report a surprising finding that, whereas moderate overexpression of SLC7A11 is beneficial for cancer cells treated with H2O2, a common oxidative stress inducer, its high overexpression dramatically increases H2O2-induced cell death. Mechanistically, high cystine uptake in cancer cells with high overexpression of SLC7A11 in combination with H2O2 treatment results in toxic buildup of intracellular cystine and other disulfide molecules, NADPH depletion, redox system collapse, and rapid cell death (likely disulfidptosis). We further show that high overexpression of SLC7A11 promotes tumor growth but suppresses tumor metastasis, likely because metastasizing cancer cells with high expression of SLC7A11 are particularly susceptible to oxidative stress. Our findings reveal that SLC7A11 expression level dictates cancer cells’ sensitivity to oxidative stress and suggests a context-dependent role for SLC7A11 in tumor biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3673
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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