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Insulin and IGF-1 Mediated Inhibition of Apoptosis in CHO Cells Grown in Suspension in a Protein-free Medium


Lars Adamson and Erik Walum

When Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells were grown in suspension and deprived of serum, 40% of them became apoptotic after 72 hours, as determined by flow cytometry analysis of TUNEL-labelled cells. Cell viability, assessed by erythrocin B staining, decreased correspondingly. An increase in the total fraction of cells expressing interleukin converting enzyme (ICE; caspase 1), B-cell lymphoma 2 protein (Bcl-2,) and Bcl-2 associated x protein (Bax) was shown by antibody probing and subsequent flow cytometry. The p53 tumour suppressor gene product level remained low within the cell population. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) inhibited cell death in a concentration-dependent manner, and at 20ng/ml, cell viability was maintained close to 100% and no apoptotic cells were detected. Also, insulin was shown to inhibit cell death — at 1.0µg/ml, cell viability was 95%, whereas 10% of the cells stained for apoptosis. At the highest concentrations of IGF-1 and insulin, the expression of ICE, Bcl-2 and Bax was fully suppressed, whereas the p53 product level increased, despite still being detectable in a minority of cells. Under these conditions, IGF-1 may increase p53 expression to restrain abnormal cell proliferation. It is concluded that special attention should be paid to exposure and culture conditions that induce acquired susceptibility to a toxic insult, during the development and validation of cell-based assays.