• (–)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate;
  • Mitochondria;
  • Oral cancer;
  • Oxidative stress;
  • Tea


The tea catechin, (–)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has potential cancer preventive effects. The prooxidant activity of EGCG may play a role in these effects.

Methods and results

Here, we report that EGCG exerted cytotoxic effects against oral cancer cell lines (IC50 = 83–95 μM). EGCG treatment resulted in formation of extracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), however, these ROS were rapidly cleared (half-life = 1.7 h). EGCG treatment increased the production of mitochondrial H2O2 in SCC-25 cells (0–6 h) before the induction of apoptosis. Subsequently, an opening of the mitochondrial transition pore and a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential were observed. The mitochondria-specific antioxidant, MitoTEMPO, reduced these effects. HGF-1 human gingival fibrobasts were resistant to EGCG (IC50 > 200 μM) and EGCG-induced ROS. EGCG induced differential expression of genes related to antioxidant defense in oral cancer cells and gingival fibroblasts: metallothionein 3, superoxide dismutase 2/3, and thioredoxin reductase 2 were downregulated in SCC-25 cells, but upregulated in HGF-1 cells.


We conclude that induction of mitochondrial ROS and mitochondrial dysfunction by EGCG play a role in the inhibition of oral cancer, and that gingival fibroblasts are spared from these effects in part because of a selective induction of antioxidant responsive genes.