Chronic exposure (>200 days) of HA1 fibroblasts to increasing concentrations of H2O2 or O2 results in the development of a stable oxidative stress-resistant phenotype characterized by increased cellular antioxidant levels, particularly catalase (D. R. Spitz et al., Arch. Biochem. Biophys., 279: 249–260, 1990; D. R. Spitz et al., Arch. Biochem. Biophys., 292: 221–227, 1992; S. J. Sullivan et al., Am. J. Physiol. (Lung Cell. Mol. Physiol.), 262: L748–L756, 1992). Acutely stressed cells failed to develop a stably resistant phenotype or increased catalase activity, suggesting that chronic exposure is required for the development of this phenotype. This study investigates the mechanism underlying increased catalase activity in the H2O2- and O2-resistant cell lines.

In H2O2- and O2-resistant cells, catalase activity was found to be 20–30-fold higher than that in the parental HA1 cells and correlated with increased immunoreactive catalase protein and steady-state catalase mRNA levels. Resistant cell lines also demonstrated a 4–6-fold increase in catalase gene copy number by Southern blot analysis, which is indicative of gene amplification. Chromosome banding and in situ hybridization studies identified a single amplified catalase gene site located on a rearranged chromosome with banding similarities to Z-4 in the hamster fibroblast karyotype. Simultaneous in situ hybridization with a Z-4-specific adenine phosphoribosyltransferase (APRT) gene revealed that the amplified catalase genes were located proximate to APRT on the same chromosome in all resistant cells. In contrast, HA1 cells contained only single copies of the catalase gene that were not located on APRT-containing chromosomes, indicating that amplification is associated with a chromosomal rearrangement possibly involving Z-4. The fact that chronic exposure of HA1 cells to either H2O2 or 95% O2 resulted in gene amplification suggests that gene amplification represents a generalized response to oxidative stress, contributing to the development of resistant phenotypes. These results support the hypothesis that chronic exposure to endogenous metabolic or exogenous environmental oxidative stress represents an important factor contributing to gene amplification and genomic instability.


Supported by NIH Grants RO1 HL51469 (to D. R. S.), RO1 CA60757 (to C. R. H.), NCHGR HG00102 (to T. F.), and PO1 CA75556 (to C. R. H. and D. R. S.).

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