ROS modifiers and NOX4 affect the expression of the survivin-associated radio-adaptive response

Free Radic Biol Med. 2018 Aug 1:123:39-52. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2018.04.547. Epub 2018 Apr 13.


The survivin-associated radio-adaptive response can be induced following exposure to ionizing radiation in the dose range from 5 to 100 mGy, and its magnitude of expression is dependent upon the TP53 mutational status of cells and ROS signaling. The purpose of the study was to investigate the potential role of ROS in the development of the survivin-associated adaptive response. Utilizing human colon carcinoma HCT116 TP53 wild type (WT) and HCT116 isogenic TP53 null mutant (Mut) cell cultures, the roles of inter- and intracellular ROS signaling on expression of the adaptive response as evidenced by changes in intracellular translocation of survivin measured by ELISA, and cell survival determined by a standard colony forming assay were investigated using ROS modifying agents that include emodin, N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), fulvene-5, honokiol, metformin and rotenone. The role of NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4) in the survivin-associated adaptive response was investigated by transfecting HCT116 cells, both WT and Mut, with two different NOX4 siRNA oligomers and Western blotting. A dose of 5 mGy or a 15 min exposure to 50 µM of the ROS producing drug emodin were equally effective in inducing a pro-survival adaptive response in TP53 WT and a radio-sensitization adaptive response in TP53 Mut HCT116 cells. Each response was associated with a corresponding translocation of survivin into the cytoplasm or nucleus, respectively. Exposure to 10 mM NAC completely inhibited both responses. Exposure to 10 µM honokiol induced responses similar to those observed following NAC exposure in TP53 WT and Mut cells. The mitochondrial complex 1 inhibitor rotenone was effective in reducing both cytoplasmic and nuclear survivin levels, but was ineffective in altering the expression of the adaptive response in either TP53 WT or Mut cells. In contrast, both metformin and fulvene-5, inhibitors of NOX4, facilitated the reversal of TP53 WT and Mut adaptive responses from pro-survival to radio-sensitization and vice versa, respectively. These changes were accompanied by corresponding reversals in the translocation of survivin to the nuclei of TP53 WT and to the cytoplasm of TP53 Mut cells. The potential role of NOX4 in the expression of the survivin-associated adaptive response was investigated by transfecting HCT116 cells with NOX4 siRNA oligomers to inhibit NOX4 expression. Under these conditions NOX4 expression was inhibited by about 50%, resulting in a reversal in the expression of the TP53 WT and Mut survivin-associated adaptive responses as was observed following metformin and fulvene-5 treatment. Exposure to 5 mGy resulted in enhanced NOX4 expression by about 40% in both TP53 WT and Mut cells, in contrast to only a 1-2% increase following a 2 Gy only exposure. Utilizing mixed cultures of HCT116 TP53 WT and isogenic null Mut cells, as few as 10% TP53 Mut cells were sufficient to control the expression of the remaining 90% WT cells and resulted in an overall radio-sensitization response accompanied by the nuclear translocation of survivin characteristic of homogeneous TP53 Mut populations.

Keywords: Adaptive response; Ionizing radiation; NOX4; ROS modifiers; Survivin; TP53.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Survival*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Gamma Rays
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • NADPH Oxidase 4 / genetics
  • NADPH Oxidase 4 / metabolism*
  • Radiation Tolerance*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Survivin / genetics
  • Survivin / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism


  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Survivin
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • NADPH Oxidase 4
  • NOX4 protein, human