Resistance of Hypoxic Cells to Ionizing Radiation Is Mediated in Part via Hypoxia-Induced Quiescence.


Double strand breaks (DSBs) are highly toxic to a cell, a property that is exploited in radiation therapy. A critical component for the damage induction is cellular oxygen, making hypoxic tumor areas refractory to the efficacy of radiation treatment. During a fractionated radiation regimen, these hypoxic areas can be re-oxygenated. Nonetheless, hypoxia still constitutes a negative prognostic factor for the patient's outcome. We hypothesized that this might be attributed to specific hypoxia-induced cellular traits that are maintained upon reoxygenation. Here, we show that reoxygenation of hypoxic non-transformed RPE-1 cells fully restored induction of DSBs but the cells remain radioresistant as a consequence of hypoxia-induced quiescence. With the use of the cell cycle indicators (FUCCI), cell cycle-specific radiation sensitivity, the cell cycle phase duration with live cell imaging, and single cell tracing were assessed. We observed that RPE-1 cells experience a longer G1 phase under hypoxia and retain a large fraction of cells that are non-cycling. Expression of HPV oncoprotein E7 prevents hypoxia-induced quiescence and abolishes the radioprotective effect. In line with this, HPV-negative cancer cell lines retain radioresistance, while HPV-positive cancer cell lines are radiosensitized upon reoxygenation. Quiescence induction in hypoxia and its HPV-driven prevention was observed in 3D multicellular spheroids. Collectively, we identify a new hypoxia-dependent radioprotective phenotype due to hypoxia-induced quiescence that accounts for a global decrease in radiosensitivity that can be retained upon reoxygenation and is absent in cells expressing oncoprotein E7.

More about this publication

  • Volume 10
  • Issue nr. 3
  • Publication date 10-03-2021

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