Hypoxia inducible factor 1 alpha : dependent and independent regulation of hematopoietic stem cells and leukemia

Sammanfattning: This thesis has studied the role of low oxygen levels, or hypoxia, in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and how, at the molecular level, it regulates stem cell maintenance and protects against oxidative stress induced by reactive oxygen species (ROS). HSCs reside within the bone marrow in specific niches created by a unique vascularized environment, which is suggested to be hypoxic and crucial for HSCs by maintaining a quiescent state of cell cycle and by redirecting metabolism away from the mitochondria to glycolysis. The niches are also believed to limit the production of ROS, which could damage DNA and disrupt the stem cell features. The hypoxia-responsive protein hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1α) is a major regulator of the hypoxic cell response in HSCs as well as in leukemic stem cells. Both these cells are thought to reside in the bone marrow where they are protected from stress and chemotherapy by niche cells and hypoxia.The thesis demonstrates that pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 regulates a metabolic shift to glycolysis, and maintains the engraftment potential of both HSCs and multipotent progenitors upon transplantation. Furthermore, we wanted to determine whether HIF-1α or other signaling pathways are involved in protecting HSCs from ROS-induced cell death. Overexpression, silencing or a knockout mouse model of Hif-1α could not identify HIF-1α as important for protecting HSCs from oxidative stress-induced cell death through inhibition of synthesis of the antioxidant glutathione. Gene expression analysis instead identified the transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) as induced by hypoxia. By studying NF- κB signaling we found increased NF-κB activity in cells cultured in hypoxia compared to normoxia. Suppression of inhibitor of kappa B indicated a putative role of NF-κB signaling in hypoxia-induced protection against oxidative stress. The findings show that hypoxia-induced protection to elevated levels of ROS upon glutathione depletion seems to be attributed to activation of the NF-κB signaling pathway independently of HIF-1α.To address the question whether hypoxic in vitro cultures support maintenance and promote HSC expansion we performed a limited dilution-transplantation assay. Our data indicate that hypoxic cultures maintain more long-term-reconstituting HSCs than normoxia, but this could not be confirmed statistically. Finally, we wanted to study the mechanisms by which hypoxia protect against chemotherapy. We could demonstrate that hypoxic culture protects leukemic cell lines against apoptosis induced by chemotherapy or inhibitors used for treatment of leukemia. This multidrug resistance seems to be mediated by ATP-binding cassette transporter genes, which are upregulated by hypoxia and whose inhibition has been shown to increase chemosensitivity. In addition, HIF-1α was upregulated in the leukemic cell lines in hypoxia and its inhibition increased the sensitivity to chemotherapy, indicating a role in inducing chemotherapy resistance.Conclusively, the results presented in this thesis stress the importance of hypoxia in regulating metabolism, oxidative-stress response and maintenance of both HSCs as well as leukemic cells, especially through the critical transcription factors HIF-1α and NF-κB and their target genes.  

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