Cells respond to reduced oxygen availability predominately by activation of the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway. HIF activation upregulates hundreds of genes that help cells survive in the reduced oxygen environment. The aim of this study is to determine whether chemical-induced HIF accumulation mimics all aspects of the hypoxic response of cells. We compared the effects of dimethyloxalylglycine (DMOG) (a HIF stabiliser) on PC12 cells cultured in air oxygen (20.9% O2, AO) with those cultured in either intermittent 20.9% O2 to 2% O2 (IH) or constant 2% O2 (CN). Cell viability, cell cycle, HIF accumulation, reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation, mitochondrial function and differentiation were used to characterise the PC12 cells and evaluate the impact of DMOG. IH and CN culture reduced the increase in cell numbers after 72 and 96 h and MTT activity after 48 h compared to AO culture. Further, DMOG supplementation in AO induced a dose-dependent reduction in the increase in PC12 cell numbers and MTT activity. IH-cultured PC12 cells displayed increased and sustained HIF-1 expression over 96 h. This was accompanied by increased ROS and mitochondrial burden. PC12 cells in CN displayed little changes in HIF-1 expression or ROS levels. DMOG (0.1 mM) supplementation resulted in an IH-like HIF-1 profile. The mitochondrial burden and action potential of DMOG-supplemented PC12 cells did not mirror those seen in other conditions. DMOG significantly increased S phase cell populations after 72 and 96 h. No significant effect on PC12 cell differentiation was noted with IH and CN culture without induction by nerve growth factor (NGF), while DMOG significantly increased PC12 cell differentiation with and without NGF. In conclusion, DMOG and reduced oxygen levels stabilise HIF and affect mitochondrial activity and cell behaviour. However, DMOG does not provide an accurate replication of the reduced oxygen environments.
Keywords: HIF; PC12 cells; cell cycle; differentiation; hypoxia; mitochondria; proliferation.