Purpose: Tumor hypoxia reduces the efficacy of radiotherapy, many types of chemotherapy, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). TRAIL (TNF-alpha-related apoptosis-inducing ligand) is a ligand for death receptors of the TNF superfamily shown to be selectively toxic for tumor cells and thereby a promising antineoplastic tool. The impact of hypoxia on TRAIL-induced apoptosis was examined in this study.
Methods and materials: Apoptosis induction and growth rates of various tumor cell lines under hypoxia were evaluated in vitro. Biologically effective induction of hypoxia was verified by determination of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) activation. The efficacy of TRAIL- and radiation-induced apoptosis under different oxygen conditions was quantified in vitro. The impact of Bcl-2 on TRAIL-induced apoptosis under hypoxia or normoxia was evaluated by comparing cells expressing Bcl-2 with a vector control.
Results: Moderate hypoxia caused no growth retardation or apoptosis, but led to activation of HIF-1 as a prerequisite of hypoxic gene induction. Cellular responses to TRAIL differed considerably among the cell lines tested. Hypoxia reduced radiation-induced, but not TRAIL-induced, apoptosis in the tested cell lines. Hypoxia did not induce Bcl-2 expression. Bcl-2 had a minor impact on the efficacy of TRAIL-induced apoptosis.
Conclusion: Taken together, the data indicate that TRAIL is clearly effective under conditions of proven hypoxia.