Methylene blue (MB) is a phenothiazine with radio and photosensitizing properties and anti-tumoral activity. Our group has shown that MB was capable of inhibiting the in vitro growth of erythroleukemic cells with multidrug resistance (MDR). However, there are no studies comparing the cytotoxicity of this molecule for normal and tumoral cells. In this work, the cytotoxicity of MB was measured by MTT method in erythroleukemic and melanoma lineages, comparing it with that of normal cells:lymphocytes and melanocytes. MB was more cytotoxic for tumoral cells; however, there was no difference between erytroleukemic cells with or without MDR phenotype. Lymphocytes and erythroleukemic cells were much more sensitive to the effects of MB than melanoma cells and melanocytes. The proliferation of phytohemagglutinin-activated lymphocytes was inhibited when 3H-thymidine incorporation to DNA was measured. We tried to analyze whether the cells were dying, via apoptosis or necrosis, using Anexin-V and propidium iodide. Despite higher levels of Anexin-V, it was not possible to distinguish necrosis from apoptosis, as the fluorescence of MB is in the same channel as propidium iodide. The production of hydrogen peroxide was measured by cytometry using dihydrorhodamine 123 (DHR). Despite the erythroleukemic cells and lymphocytes being capable of producing free radicals, there was no relation between the production and the sensitivity of various cells to MB. Our results suggest that MB should be used as a chemotherapeutic agent, because of its preferential cytotoxic effects over tumor cells, considering the fact that MDR cells are also sensitive, and due to its radio and photosensitizing activities.
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