Vordermark, D., Menke, D. R. and Brown, J. M. Similar Radiation Sensitivities of Acutely and Chronically Hypoxic Cells in HT 1080 Fibrosarcoma Xenografts. Radiat. Res. 159, 94–101 (2003).
It has been suggested that chronically hypoxic tumor cells may be more radiosensitive than acutely hypoxic or even aerobic cells. In the present study we have used the fact that chronically, but not acutely, hypoxic cells that are transformed with a vector containing an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) driven by a hypoxia-responsive promoter become green (high EGFP) at low oxygen concentrations and can be viably sorted from transplanted tumors in vitro. We showed that the fluorescence of HT 1080 human fibrosarcoma cells stably transfected with this vector increases constantly with decreasing O2 concentrations (<2%, longer than 1 h, half maximum ∼0.2% for longer than 8 h), and that cells subjected to repeated cycles of hypoxia/reoxygenation (simulating acutely hypoxic cells) showed only background fluorescence. To test the radiosensitivity of acutely and chronically hypoxic cells in tumors, we isolated high-EGFP (“chronically hypoxic”) and low-EGFP cells (containing both acutely hypoxic and aerobic cells) from HT 1080 xenograft tumors by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), immediately after in situ treatment with 20 Gy (ambient or clamped), and plated the cells to determine clonogenic survival in vitro. We found that the survival of high-EGFP cells after irradiation was not affected by clamping, suggesting that all, or almost all, of these cells were fully (chronically) hypoxic. Also, the survival of the low-EGFP cells irradiated under clamped conditions (acutely hypoxic cells) was not significantly different from that of the high-EGFR cells (chronically hypoxic) cells irradiated under nonclamped (or clamped) conditions. We therefore conclude that, at least in this tumor model, the radiation sensitivity of chronically hypoxic cells is similar to that of the acutely hypoxic cells.