Hypoxia reduces adenoviral replication in cancer cells by downregulation of viral protein expression

Gene Ther. 2005 Jun;12(11):911-7. doi: 10.1038/sj.gt.3302459.


Successful cancer therapy using replicating viral vectors relies on the spread of virus from infected to uninfected cells. To date, there has been limited clinical success in the use of replicating adenoviruses. In animal models, established xenograft tumors are rarely eliminated despite the persistence of high viral titers within the tumor. Hypoxia is a prevalent characteristic of solid tumors, whereas adenovirus naturally infects tissues exposed to ambient oxygen concentrations. Here, we report that hypoxia (1% oxygen) reduces adenoviral replication in H1299 and A549 lung cancer cells, BxPC-3 pancreatic cancer cells, LNCaP prostate cancer cells and HCT116 colon cancer cells. However, hypoxia does not reduce cell viability or restrict S-phase entry. Importantly, the production of E1a and fiber proteins under hypoxic conditions was substantially decreased at 24 and 48 h compared to room air controls. In contrast, Northern analysis showed similar levels of E1a mRNA in room air and hypoxic conditions. In conclusion, a level of hypoxia similar to that found within solid tumors reduces the replication of adenoviral vectors by reduction of viral protein expression without a reduction in mRNA levels. To further improve oncolytic therapy using a replicating adenovirus, it is important to understand the mechanism through which hypoxia and the virus interact to control expression of viral and cellular proteins, and consequently to develop means to overcome decreased viral production in hypoxic conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / genetics
  • Adenoviridae / physiology*
  • Blotting, Northern
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Genetic Vectors*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / virology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • S Phase / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism*
  • Virus Replication / physiology*


  • HIF1A protein, human
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Viral
  • Transcription Factors
  • Viral Proteins