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A previous study using mice null for Gpx4 indicates that PHGPx plays a critical role in antioxidant defense and is essential for the survival of the mouse. In the present study, we further analyzed the stress response of MEFs (murine embryonic fibroblasts) derived from mice heterozygous for the Gpx4 gene (Gpx4(+/-) mice). MEFs from Gpx4(+/-) mice have a 50% reduction in PHGPx expression without any changes in the activities of other major antioxidant defense enzymes. Compared to MEFs from Gpx4(+/+) mice, MEFs from Gpx4(+/-) mice were more sensitive to exposure to the oxidizing agent t-butyl hydroperoxide (t-BuOOH), and t-BuOOH exposure induced increased apoptosis in MEFs from Gpx4(+/-) mice. When cultured at low cell density, MEFs from Gpx4(+/-) mice also showed retarded growth under normal culture conditions (20% oxygen) that was reversed by culturing under low oxygen (2% oxygen). In addition, oxidative damage was increased in the MEFs from the Gpx4(+/-) mice, as indicated by increased levels of F(2)-isoprostanes and 8-oxo-2-deoxyguanosine in these cells. Our data demonstrate that MEFs from Gpx4(+/-) mice are more sensitive to oxidative stress because of reduced expression of PHGPx.