Prosurvival and prodeath effects of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α stabilization in a murine hippocampal cell line
Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a transcriptional activator involved in adaptation to hypoxic stress. Previous studies from our laboratory demonstrated that pharmacological activators of HIF-1 (e.g. deferoxamine, cobalt chloride) could also protect cultured primary neurons or an immortalized hippocampal neuroblast line (HT22) from oxidative stress-induced death. However, whether HIF-1 activation is sufficient to abrogate neuronal death resulting from oxidative stress or other hypoxia-independent death inducers remains unclear. To address this question we utilized a HIF-1alpha fusion protein that partially lacks the domain required for oxygen-dependent degradation of HIF-1alpha and that has a VP16 transcriptional activation domain from herpes simplex virus. HT22 cells were infected with a retrovirus encoding either the HIF-1alpha-VP16 fusion protein or the activation domain of the VP16 protein alone as a control. Expression of HIF-1alpha-VP16, but not VP16 alone, increased luciferase activity driven by a canonical hypoxia response element, increased mRNA of established HIF-1 target genes, and increased activity of one of these HIF-1 target genes. Unexpectedly, enhanced HIF-1 activity in HT22 cells enhanced sensitivity to oxidative death induced by glutathione depletion. Accordingly, suppression of HIF-1alpha expression using RNA interference prevented oxidative death. By contrast, HIF-1alpha-VP16-expressing HT22 cells were more resistant to DNA damage (induced by camptothecin) or endoplasmic reticulum stress (induced by thapsigargin and tunicamycin) than were VP16-expressing cells, and suppression of HIF-1alpha expression using RNA interference rendered HT22 cells more sensitive to death induced by DNA damage or endoplasmic reticulum stress. Together, these data demonstrate that HIF-1 can mediate prodeath or prosurvival responses in the same cell type depending on the injury stimulus.