There are a number of processes that lead to the death of a cell: apoptosis, necrosis, and autophagy are the primary mechanisms – each has a distinct biochemical and morphological fingerprint. In a new paper by Brent Stockwell’s lab at Columbia University (1), the term “ferroptosis” is proposed to describe a process of cell death that doesn’t conform to these fingerprints. In this case, cell death results from an iron-dependent accumulation of lipid reactive oxygen species (ROS).
The group previously identified two structurally-unrelated small molecules, erastin (2) and RSL3 (3), that are selectively lethal to RAS mutant cell lines and named these molecules RAS-selective lethal (RSL) compounds. The underlying driving force for these experiments is that RAS family small GTPases are mutated in a large percentage of cancers (~30%), so compounds that are selectively lethal to RAS mutant cells are needed.