Hemoglobin (Hgb) is the main oxygen and carbon dioxide carrier in cells of erythroid lineage and is responsible for oxygen delivery to the respiring tissues of the body. However, Hgb is also expressed in nonerythroid cells. In the present study, the expression of Hgb in human uterine cervix carcinoma cells and its role in cervical cancer were investigated.
The expression level of Hgb in cervical cancer tissues was assessed by quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR (qRT-PCR). We applied multiple methods, such as RT-PCR, immunoblotting, and immunohistochemical analysis, to confirm Hgb expression in cervical cancer cells. The effects of ectopic expression of Hgb and Hgb mutants on oxidative stress and cell viability were investigated by cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) analysis and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) array, respectively. Both Annexin V staining assay by flow cytometry and caspase-3 activity assay were used, respectively, to evaluate cell apoptosis.
qRT-PCR analysis showed that Hgb-α- (HBA1) and Hgb-β-globin (HBB) gene expression was significantly higher in cervical carcinoma than in normal cervical tissues, whereas the expression of hematopoietic transcription factors and erythrocyte specific marker genes was not increased. Immunostaining experiments confirmed the expression of Hgb in cancer cells of the uterine cervix. Hgb mRNA and protein were also detected in the human cervical carcinoma cell lines SiHa and CaSki, and Hgb expression was up-regulated by hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress. Importantly, ectopic expression of wild type HBA1/HBB or HBA1, rather than mutants HBA1H88R/HBBH93R unable to bind hemo, suppressed oxidative stress and improved cell viability.
The present findings show for the first time that Hgb is expressed in cervical carcinoma cells and may act as an antioxidant, attenuating oxidative stress-induced damage in cervical cancer cells. These data provide a significant impact not only in globin biology but also in understanding of cervical cancer pathogenesis associated with oxidative stress.