Sonic hedgehog signaling pathway supports cancer cell growth during cancer radiotherapy

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 10;8(6):e65032. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065032. Print 2013.


Tumor growth after radiotherapy is a commonly recognized cause of therapeutic failure. In this way, we examined tumor cell growth after radiotherapy by establishing a cancer cell growth model in vitro. We accomplished this model by seeding non-irradiated firefly luciferase2 and green fluorescent protein fusion gene (Fluc) labeled living cancer reporter cells onto a feeder layer of irradiated cancer cells. The living tumor cell growth was monitored by bioluminescence imaging. The living reporter cells grew faster when seeded onto lethally irradiated feeder cells than when seeded onto non-irradiated feeder cells or when seeded in the absence of feeder cells. We found that the expression levels of the Shh and Gli1 proteins, both of which are critical proteins in Sonic hedgehog (SHH) signaling, were increased after irradiation and that this expression was positively correlated with reporter cell growth. Moreover, the dying cell stimulation of living tumor cell growth was enhanced by the addition of SHH signaling agonists and inhibited by SHH signaling antagonists. SHH agonists also enhanced reporter cell growth in the absence of irradiated feeder cells, suggesting this mechanism plays a role in feeder cell growth stimulation. Given these results, we conclude that SHH signaling activation plays an important role during tumor repopulation after radiotherapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / radiation effects*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Proliferation / radiation effects*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Feeder Cells / radiation effects
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Hedgehog Proteins / agonists
  • Hedgehog Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Luciferases / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects*
  • Transcription Factors / agonists
  • Transcription Factors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • X-Rays
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1


  • GLI1 protein, human
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • SHH protein, human
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luciferases