Hypoxia Prevents Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Senescence in Human c-Kit+ Cardiac Progenitor Cells

Stem Cells. 2019 Apr;37(4):555-567. doi: 10.1002/stem.2970. Epub 2019 Jan 30.


Senescence-associated dysfunction deleteriously affects biological activities of human c-Kit+ cardiac progenitor cells (hCPCs), particularly under conditions of in vitro culture. In comparison, preservation of self-renewal and decreases in mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) are characteristics of murine CPCs in vivo that reside within hypoxic niches. Recapitulating hypoxic niche oxygen tension conditions of ∼1% O2 in vitro for expansion of hCPCs rather than typical normoxic cell culture conditions (21% O2 ) could provide significant improvement of functional and biological activities of hCPCs. hCPCs were isolated and expanded under permanent hypoxic (hCPC-1%) or normoxic (hCPC-21%) conditions from left ventricular tissue explants collected during left ventricular assist device implantation. hCPC-1% exhibit increased self-renewal and suppression of senescence characteristics relative to hCPC-21%. Oxidative stress contributed to higher susceptibility to apoptosis, as well as decreased mitochondrial function in hCPC-21%. Hypoxia prevented accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria, supporting higher oxygen consumption rates and mitochondrial membrane potential. Mitochondrial ROS was an upstream mediator of senescence since treatment of hCPC-1% with mitochondrial inhibitor antimycin A recapitulated mitochondrial dysfunction and senescence observed in hCPC-21%. NAD+ /NADH ratio and autophagic flux, which are key factors for mitochondrial function, were higher in hCPC-1%, but hCPC-21% were highly dependent on BNIP3/NIX-mediated mitophagy to maintain mitochondrial function. Overall, results demonstrate that supraphysiological oxygen tension during in vitro expansion initiates a downward spiral of oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cellular energy imbalance culminating in early proliferation arrest of hCPCs. Senescence is inhibited by preventing ROS through hypoxic culture of hCPCs. Stem Cells 2019;37:555-567.

Keywords: Autophagy; Heart; Human; Mitochondria; Reactive oxygen species; Stem cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Hypoxia
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit