Cell Stress and Chaperones

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 203–213 | Cite as

Development of rapid and highly sensitive HSPA1A promoter-driven luciferase reporter system for assessing oxidative stress associated with low-dose photodynamic therapy

  • Yuanhong Zheng
  • Vanminh Le
  • Zhuoan Cheng
  • Sheng Xie
  • Hegeng Li
  • Jianhui Tian
  • Jianwen Liu
Original Paper


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a regulatory-approved modality for treating a variety of malignant tumors. It induces tumor tissue damage via photosensitizer-mediated oxidative cytotoxicity. The heat shock protein 70 (HSP70-1) is a stress protein encoded by the HSPA1A gene and is significantly induced by oxidative stress associated with PDT. The aim of this study was to identify the functional region of the HSPA1A promoter that responds to PDT-induced oxidative stress and uses the stress responsiveness of HSPA1A expression to establish a rapid and cost-effective photocytotoxic assessment bioassay to evaluate the photodynamic potential of photosensitizers. By constructing luciferase vectors with a variety of hspa1a promoter fractions and examining their relative luciferase activity, we demonstrated that the DNA sequence from −218 to +87 of the HSPA1A gene could be used as a functional promoter to detect the PDT-induced oxidative stress. The maximal relative luciferase activity level of HSPA1A (HSP70-1) induced by hypericin-PDT was nearly nine times that of the control. Our results suggest that the novel reporter gene assay using a functional region of the HSP70A1A promoter has significant advantages for the detection of photoactivity in terms of both speed and sensitivity, when compared with a cell viability test based on ATP quantification and ROS levels. Furthermore, phthalocyanine zinc and methylene blue both induced significantly elevated levels of relative luciferase activity in a dose-dependent manner.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) HSPA1A promoter activity Stress oxidative Luciferase reporter Cell viability 



Heat shock protein


Photodynamic therapy


Reactive oxygen species


Dimethyl sulfoxide




Methylene blue


Zinc phthalocyanine


Micromoles per liter


3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC project number: 81173224), the Shanghai Municipal Committee of Science and Technology(No. 11ZR1437000), and the Scholar of Longhua Hospital (D-11).


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Copyright information

© Cell Stress Society International 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Bioreactor Engineering and Shanghai Key Laboratory of Chemical BiologySchool of Pharmacy, East China University of Science and TechnologyShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of OncologyLonghua Hospital, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, National Clinical Research Centre for Traditional Chinese Medicine and OncologyShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

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