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The creatine kinase (CK) phosphagen system is fundamental to cellular energy homeostasis. Cardiomyocytes express three CK isoforms, namely the mitochondrial sarcomeric CKMT2 and the cytoplasmic CKM and CKB. We hypothesized that augmenting CK in vitro would preserve cell viability and function and sought to determine efficacy of the various isoforms. The open reading frame of each isoform was cloned into pcDNA3.1, followed by transfection and stable selection in human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293). CKMT2- CKM- and CKB-HEK293 cells had increased protein and total CK activity compared to non-transfected cells. Overexpressing any of the three CK isoforms reduced cell death in response to 18h hypoxia at 1% O2 followed by 2h re-oxygenation as assayed using propidium iodide: by 33% in CKMT2, 47% in CKM and 58% in CKB compared to non-transfected cells (P<0.05). Loading cells with creatine did not modify cell survival. Transient expression of CK isoforms in HL-1 cardiac cells elevated isoenzyme activity, but only CKMT2 over-expression protected against hypoxia (0.1% for 24h) and reoxygenation demonstrating 25% less cell death compared to non-transfected control (P<0.01). The same cells were not protected from doxorubicin toxicity (250nM for 48h), in contrast to the positive control. These findings support increased CK activity as protection against ischaemia-reperfusion injury, in particular, protection via CKMT2 in a cardiac-relevant cell line, which merits further investigation in vivo.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Animals, Anthracyclines, Base Sequence, Cell Death, Cell Hypoxia, Cloning, Molecular, Creatine Kinase, Cytoprotection, Doxorubicin, HEK293 Cells, Humans, Isoenzymes, Mice, Open Reading Frames, Oxygen, Transfection