The mechanisms by which mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) respond to the input of UV-induced signal transduction pathways and the resulting biological functions are not well understood. We investigated whether the level of oxygen tension of culture was responsible for the differential activation of MAPK and different cellular outcomes in UVC-irradiated cells. The intracellular oxidative level of normal human fibroblast-like cells in a normal atmosphere (normoxic, 20% O2) was increased within 30 min after UVC irradiation. When cells were cultured at lower oxygen tension in the presence of an antioxidant N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC) or under physiologically hypoxic (5% O2) conditions, the elevation of the oxidative level by UV-irradiation was significantly reduced. Among MAPK, extracellular-signal related kinase (ERK) 1/2 was activated by UV regardless of the oxidative level, while c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activation was inhibited in NAC-treated and in hypoxic cultures. In addition, in cultures at lower oxygen tension, there was less apoptosis and cell survival was enhanced. These results suggest that UV-induced oxidative stress was responsible for intracellular signaling through the JNK pathway. Furthermore, the balance between ERK1/2 and JNK activities after UV irradiation under different oxygen tensions possibly modified cellular outcome in response to UV.
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Vol. 72 • No. 3