Despite the potential benefits of selective redox-modulating strategies for cancer therapy, an efficacious methodology for testing therapies remains elusive because of the difficulty in measuring intracellular redox potentials over time. In this report, we have incorporated a new FRET-based biosensor to follow in real time redox-sensitive processes in cells transformed to be tumorigenic and cultured in a microfluidic channel. A microfluidic network was used to control micro-scale flow near the cells and at the same time deliver drugs exogenously. Subsequently, the response of a redox homeostasis circuit was tested, namely reduced glutathione (GSH)/oxidized glutathione(GSSG), to diamide, a thiol oxidant, and two drugs used for cancer therapies: BSO (l-buthionine-[SR]-sulfoximine) and BCNU (carmustine). The main outcome from these experiments is a comparison of the temporal depletion and recovery of GSH in single living cells in real-time. These data demonstrate that mammalian cells are capable of restoring a reduced intracellular redox environment in minutes after an acute oxidative insult is removed. This recovery is significantly delayed by (i) the inhibition of GSH biosynthesis by BSO; (ii) the inactivation of glutathione reductase by BCNU; and (iii) in tumorigenic cells relative to an isogenic non-tumorigenic control cell line.
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