Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and p53 are involved in anticancer drug resistance under hypoxic conditions. Here, we found that the cytotoxicity of anticancer drugs (doxorubicin, gemcitabine, and cisplatin) was lower at 1% O2 than at 5% O2. We examined the effects of these drugs on HIF-1α and p53 expression under different hypoxic oxygen concentrations. At 5% O2, the drugs decreased HIF-1α expression and increased p53 levels. At 1% O2, the drugs increased HIF-1α expression but did not alter p53 levels. When the HIF-1α protein was stabilized by DMOG under normoxic conditions, doxorubicin did not increase the level of p53 expression. These results show that the maintenance of HIF-1α expression blocked doxorubicin-dependent increases in p53 expression. We hypothesized the mechanism of HIF-1α protein translation might be different between at 5% and at 1% O2, because many reports indicate that the same mechanism of HIF-1α protein stabilization occurs under hypoxic conditions, such as 5% and 1% O2. The level of phosphorylated-4E-BP1, which causes translation of HIF-1α, was higher at 1% O2 than at 5% O2. Our results suggest that the sensitivity of tumor cells to anticancer drugs is dependent oxygen concentrations under hypoxic conditions, and involves 4E-BP1-dependent stabilization of the HIF-1α protein.
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