Depletion of HIF-1α by Inducible Cre/loxP Increases the Sensitivity of Cultured Murine Hepatocytes to Ionizing Radiation in Hypoxia

The transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) is the main oxygen sensor which regulates adaptation to cellular hypoxia. The aim of this study was to establish cultured murine hepatocyte derived cells (mHDC) as an in vitro model and to analyze the role of HIF-1α in apoptosis induction, DNA damage repair and sensitivity to ionizing radiation (IR). We have crossed C57/BL6 mice that bear loxP sites flanking exon 2 of Hif1a with mice which carry tamoxifen-inducible global Cre expression. From the offspring, we have established transduced hepatocyte cultures which are permanently HIF-1α deficient after tamoxifen treatment. We demonstrated that the cells produce albumin, acetylcholine esterase, and the cytokeratins 8 and 18 which functionally characterizes them as hepatocytes. In moderate hypoxia, HIF-1α deficiency increased IR-induced apoptosis and significantly reduced the surviving fraction of mHDC as compared to HIF-1α expressing cells in colony formation assays. Furthermore, HIF-1α knockout cells displayed increased IR-induced DNA damage as demonstrated by increased generation and persistence of γH2AX foci. HIF-1α deficient cells showed delayed DNA repair after IR in hypoxia in neutral comet assays which may indicate that non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) repair capacity was affected. Overall, our data suggest that HIF-1α inactivation increases radiation sensitivity of mHDC cells.


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