, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 707–718 | Cite as

Hypoxia-induced cell death of HepG2 cells involves a necrotic cell death mediated by calpain

  • Min-Ju Kim
  • Soo-Jin Oh
  • Seong-Hoon Park
  • Hong-Jun Kang
  • Moo-Ho Won
  • Tae-Cheon Kang
  • In Koo Hwang
  • Jae-Bong Park
  • Jong-Il Kim
  • Jaebong Kim
  • Jae-Yong Lee


To elucidate mechanism of cell death in response to hypoxia, we attempted to compare hypoxia-induced cell death of HepG2 cells with cisplatin-induced cell death, which has been well characterized as a typical apoptosis. Cell death induced by hypoxia turned out to be different from cisplatin-mediated apoptosis in cell viability and cleavage patterns of caspases. Hypoxia-induced cell death was not associated with the activation of p53 while cisplatin-induced apoptosis is p53 dependent. In order to explain these differences, we tested involvement of μ-calpain and m-calpain in hypoxia-induced cell death. Calpains, especially μ-calpain, were initially cleaved by hypoxia, but not by cisplatin. Interestingly, the treatment of a calpain inhibitor restored PARP cleavage that was absent during hypoxia, indicating the recovery of activated caspase-3. The inhibition of calpains prevented proteolysis induced by hypoxia. In addition, hypoxia resulted in a necrosis-like morphology while cisplatin induced an apoptotic morphology. The calpain inhibitor prevented necrotic morphology induced by hypoxia and converted partially to apoptotic morphology with nuclear segmentation. Our result suggests that calpains are involved in hypoxia-induced cell death that is likely to be necrotic in nature and the inhibition of calpain switches hypoxia-induced cell death to apoptotic cell death without affecting cell viability.


Apoptosis Necrosis Calpain Hypoxia HepG2 



We thank Dr. Kyungsook Ahn for her help in editing this manuscript. This work was supported by R01-2004-000-10803-0 from the Basic Research Program of the Korea Science & Engineering Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Min-Ju Kim
    • 1
  • Soo-Jin Oh
    • 1
  • Seong-Hoon Park
    • 1
  • Hong-Jun Kang
    • 1
  • Moo-Ho Won
    • 2
  • Tae-Cheon Kang
    • 2
  • In Koo Hwang
    • 2
  • Jae-Bong Park
    • 1
  • Jong-Il Kim
    • 1
  • Jaebong Kim
    • 1
  • Jae-Yong Lee
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryCollege of Medicine, Hallym UniversityChuncheonKorea
  2. 2.Department of AnatomyCollege of Medicine, Hallym UniversityChuncheonKorea

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