Hypoxia inhibits tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand-induced apoptosis by blocking Bax translocation

Moonil Kim, Sang Youel Park, Hyun Sook Pai, Tae Hyoung Kim, Timothy R. Billiar, Dai Wu Seol*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The hypoxic environment in solid tumors results from oxygen consumption by rapid proliferation of tumor cells. Hypoxia has been shown to facilitate the survival of tumor cells and to be a cause of malignant transformation. Hypoxia also is well known to attenuate the therapeutic activity of various therapies in cancer management. These observations indicate that hypoxia plays a crifical role in tumor biology. However, little is known about the effects of hypoxia on apoptosis, especially on apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), a potent apoptosis inducer that has been shown to specifically limit tumor growth without damaging normal cells and tissues in vivo. To address the effects of hypoxia on TRAIL-induced apoptosis, HCT116 human colon carcinoma cells were exposed to hypoxic or normoxic conditions and treated with soluble TRAIL protein. Hypoxia dramatically inhibited TRAIL-induced apoptosis in HCT116 cells, which are highly susceptible to TRAIL in normoxia. Hypoxia increased antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family member proteins and inhibitors of apoptosis proteins. Interestingly, these hypoxia-increased antiapoptotic molecules were decreased by TRAIL treatment to the levels lower than those of the untreated conditions, suggesting that hypoxia inhibits TRAIL-induced apoptosis via other mechanisms rather than up-regulation of these antlapoptotic molecules. Additional characterization revealed that hypoxia significantly inhibits TRAIL-induced translocation of Bax from the cytosol to the mitochondria in HCT116 and A549 cells, with the concomitant inhibition of cytochrome c release from the mitochondria. Bax-deficient HCT116 cells were completely resistant to TRAIL regardless of oxygen content, demonstrating a pivotal role of Bax in TRAIL-induced apoptotic signaling. Thus, our data indicate that hypoxia inhibits TRAIL-induced apoptosis by blocking Bax transtocation to the mitochondria, thereby converting cells to a Bax-deficient state.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4078-4081
Number of pages4
JournalCancer Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


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