The molecular mechanism of cell death due to hypoxia has not been elucidated. Our recent observations that overexpression of the anti-apoptotic proto-oncogene bcl-2 and a bcl-2-related gene, bcl-x, prevents hypoxic cell death suggest that hypoxia induces apoptosis. Using electron microscopy and confocal and nonconfocal fluorescence microscopy, we show here that hypoxia does, in fact, induce both necrosis and apoptosis, and that the proportion of these two modes is highly dependent on the cell type. Overexpression of Bcl-2 or Bcl-XL blocks hypoxia-induced apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner.

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This work was supported in part by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, of Japan.

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