Hypoxia induces autophagy in primary human trophoblasts

Baosheng Chen, Mark S. Longtine, D. Michael Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Autophagy is a highly regulated and dynamic process that maintains cellular homeostasis and plays a prosurvival role in most cells. Although hypoxia has been shown to induce apoptosis in placental trophoblasts, the hypoxic effect on autophagy has not been studied. We hypothesized that autophagy plays a prosurvival role in the placental trophoblasts by antagonizing hypoxia-induced apoptosis. Our data show that the expression of Light chain 3-II (LC3-II), an autophagic marker and cleaved poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, an apoptosis marker, are inversely related in cultured trophoblasts. Exposure to rapamycin or hypoxia inactivated mammalian target of rapamycin, as reflected by reduced phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S6, indicating that mammalian target of rapamycin regulates autophagy in cultured cytotrophoblasts. Bafilomycin prevented the degradation of cargo and increased LC3-II and p62 in cytotrophoblasts exposed to hypoxia, revealing enhanced autophagic flux. Importantly, bafilomycin enhanced expression of autophagy-related protein 7 (Atg7), parallel to the increased apoptosis measured by cleaved poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. LY294002, a phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor, increased apoptosis in the trophoblasts under hypoxia or standard conditions. Silencing of Atg7 decreased both apoptosis and LC3-II in the trophoblasts, suggesting a dual role of Atg7 in both autophagy and apoptosis. We conclude that there is a cross talk between autophagy and apoptosis in the placental trophoblasts; autophagy plays a prosurvival role and Atg7 has roles in both autophagy and apoptosis under hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4946-4954
Number of pages9
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012


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