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The HAP1 protein (also known as APE/Ref-1) is a bifunctional human nuclear enzyme required for repair of apurinic/apyrimidinic sites in DNA and reactivation of oxidized proto-oncogene products. To gain insight into the biological roles of HAP1, the effect of expressing antisense HAP1 RNA in HeLa cells was determined. The constructs for antisense RNA expression consisted of either a full-length HAP1 cDNA or a genomic DNA fragment cloned downstream of the CMV promoter in pcDNAneo. Stable HeLa cell transfectants expressing HAP1 antisense RNA were found to express greatly reduced levels of the HAP1 protein compared to equivalent sense orientation and vector-only control transfectants. The antisense HAP1 transfectants exhibited a normal growth rate, cell morphology and plating efficiency, but were hypersensitive to killing by a wide range of DNA damaging agents, including methyl methanesulphonate, hydrogen peroxide, menadione, and paraquat. However, survival after UV irradiation was unchanged. The antisense transfectants were strikingly sensitive to changes in oxygen tension, exhibiting increased killing compared to controls following exposure to both hypoxia (1% oxygen) and hyperoxia (100% oxygen). Consistent with a requirement for HAP1 in protection against hypoxic stress, expression of the HAP1 protein was found to be induced in a time-dependent manner in human cells during growth under 1% oxygen. The possible involvement of a depletion of cellular glutathione being linked to the hypoxic stress-sensitive phenotype of the antisense HAP1 transfectants came from the finding that they also exhibited hypersensitivity to buthionine sulphoximine, an inhibitor of glutathione biosynthesis. We conclude that the HAP1 protein is a key factor in cellular protection against a wide variety of cellular stresses, including DNA damage and a change in oxygen tension.


Journal article


Nucleic Acids Res

Publication Date





4884 - 4889


Buthionine Sulfoximine, Carbon-Oxygen Lyases, Cell Hypoxia, Cell Survival, DNA, DNA-(Apurinic or Apyrimidinic Site) Lyase, Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic, Glutathione, HeLa Cells, Humans, Methionine Sulfoximine, Mutagens, Nuclear Proteins, Oxidative Stress, RNA, Antisense, Ultraviolet Rays