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1.  Cobalt stimulates HIF-1-dependent but inhibits HIF-2-dependent gene expression in liver cancer cells 
The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology  2013;45(11):10.1016/j.biocel.2013.07.025.
Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are transcriptional regulators that mediate the cellular response to low oxygen. Although HIF-1 is usually considered as the principal mediator of hypoxic adaptation, several tissues and different cell types express both HIF-1 and HIF-2 isoforms under hypoxia or when treated with hypoxia mimetic chemicals such as cobalt. However, the similarities or differences between HIF-1 and HIF-2, in terms of their tissue- and inducer-specific activation and function, are not adequately characterized. To address this issue, we investigated the effects of true hypoxia and hypoxia mimetics on HIF-1 and HIF-2 induction and specific gene transcriptional activity in two hepatic cancer cell lines, Huh7 and HepG2. Both hypoxia and cobalt caused rapid induction of both HIF-1α and HIF-2α proteins. Hypoxia induced erythropoietin (EPO) expression and secretion in a HIF-2-dependent way. Surprisingly, however, EPO expression was not induced when cells were treated with cobalt. In agreement, both HIF-1- and HIF-2-dependent promoters (of PGK and SOD2 genes, respectively) were activated by hypoxia while cobalt only activated the HIF-1-dependent PGK promoter. Unlike cobalt, other hypoxia mimetics such as DFO and DMOG activated both types of promoters. Furthermore, cobalt impaired the hypoxic stimulation of HIF-2, but not HIF-1, activity and cobalt-induced HIF-2α interacted poorly with USF-2, a HIF-2-specific co-activator. These data show that, despite similar induction of HIF-1α and HIF-2α protein expression, HIF-1 and HIF-2 specific gene activating functions respond differently to different stimuli and suggest the operation of oxygen-independent and gene- or tissue-specific regulatory mechanisms involving additional transcription factors or co-activators.
PMCID: PMC3855297  PMID: 23958427
HIF-2α; EPO; SOD2; Hypoxia; Cobalt; USF2
2.  HIF-1α: a Valid Therapeutic Target for Tumor Therapy 
Hypoxia plays a major role in the induction of angiogenesis during tumor development. One mechanism by which tumor cells respond to a reduced oxygen level is via the activation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1). HIF-1 is an oxygen-dependent transcriptional activator that plays crucial roles in the angiogenesis of tumors and mammalian development. HIF-1 consists of a constitutively expressed HIF-1β subunit and the highly regulated HIF-1α subunits. The stability and activity of HIF-1α are regulated by various post-translational modifications, hydroxylation, acetylation, phosphorylation and sumoyaltion. Therefore, HIF-1α interacts with several protein factors including PHD, pVHL, ARD-1, SUMO and p300/CBP. Under normoxia, the HIF-1α subunit is rapidly degraded via the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor gene product (pVHL)-mediated ubiquitin/proteasome pathway. The association of pVHL and HIF-1α under normoxic conditions is triggered by the hydroxylation of prolines and the acetylation of lysine within a polypeptide segment known as the oxygen-dependent degradation (ODD) domain. On the contrary, under the hypoxia condition, the HIF-1α subunit becomes stable and interacts with coactivators such as p300/CBP to modulate its transcriptional activity. Under hypoxic conditions, HIF-1 eventually acts as a master regulator of numerous hypoxia-inducible genes. The target genes of HIF-1 are especially related to angiogenesis, cell proliferation and survival, and to glucose and iron metabolism. Moreover, it was reported that the activation of HIF-1α is closely associated with a variety of tumors and oncogenic pathways. Hence, the blocking of HIF-1α itself or the blocking of HIF-1α interacting proteins inhibits tumor growth. Based on these findings, HIF-1 can be a prime target for anticancer therapies. Therefore, this review summarizes the molecular mechanism of HIF-1α stability, the biological functions of HIF-1 and its potential applications for cancer therapies.
PMCID: PMC2843877  PMID: 20368827
ARD1; Angiogenesis; Anticancer therapy; Cell proliferation/survival; Glucose metabolism; HIF-1; Iron metabolism; PHD; SUMO; pVHL; p300/CBP; Transcription factor
3.  Endothelin-1 Inhibits Prolyl Hydroxylase Domain 2 to Activate Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1α in Melanoma Cells 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11241.
The endothelin B receptor (ETBR) promotes tumorigenesis and melanoma progression through activation by endothelin (ET)-1, thus representing a promising therapeutic target. The stability of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α is essential for melanomagenesis and progression, and is controlled by site-specific hydroxylation carried out by HIF-prolyl hydroxylase domain (PHD) and subsequent proteosomal degradation.
Principal Findings
Here we found that in melanoma cells ET-1, ET-2, and ET-3 through ETBR, enhance the expression and activity of HIF-1α and HIF-2α that in turn regulate the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in response to ETs or hypoxia. Under normoxic conditions, ET-1 controls HIF-α stability by inhibiting its degradation, as determined by impaired degradation of a reporter gene containing the HIF-1α oxygen-dependent degradation domain encompassing the PHD-targeted prolines. In particular, ETs through ETBR markedly decrease PHD2 mRNA and protein levels and promoter activity. In addition, activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-dependent integrin linked kinase (ILK)-AKT-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway is required for ETBR-mediated PHD2 inhibition, HIF-1α, HIF-2α, and VEGF expression. At functional level, PHD2 knockdown does not further increase ETs-induced in vitro tube formation of endothelial cells and melanoma cell invasiveness, demonstrating that these processes are regulated in a PHD2-dependent manner. In human primary and metastatic melanoma tissues as well as in cell lines, that express high levels of HIF-1α, ETBR expression is associated with low PHD2 levels. In melanoma xenografts, ETBR blockade by ETBR antagonist results in a concomitant reduction of tumor growth, angiogenesis, HIF-1α, and HIF-2α expression, and an increase in PHD2 levels.
In this study we identified the underlying mechanism by which ET-1, through the regulation of PHD2, controls HIF-1α stability and thereby regulates angiogenesis and melanoma cell invasion. These results further indicate that targeting ETBR may represent a potential therapeutic treatment of melanoma by impairing HIF-1α stability.
PMCID: PMC2888584  PMID: 20574527
4.  Expression and function of hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha in human melanoma under non-hypoxic conditions 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:104.
Hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α) protein is rapidly degraded under normoxic conditions. When oxygen tensions fall HIF-1α protein stabilizes and transactivates genes involved in adaptation to hypoxic conditions. We have examined the normoxic expression of HIF-1α RNA and protein in normal human melanocytes and a series of human melanoma cell lines isolated from radial growth phase (RGP), vertical growth phase (VGP) and metastatic (MET) melanomas.
HIF-1α mRNA and protein was increased in RGP vs melanocytes, VGP vs RGP and MET vs VGP melanoma cell lines. We also detected expression of a HIF-1α mRNA splice variant that lacks part of the oxygen-dependent regulation domain in WM1366 and WM9 melanoma cells. Over-expression of HIF-1α and its splice variant in the RGP cell line SbCl2 resulted in a small increase in soft agar colony formation and a large increase in matrigel invasion relative to control transfected cells. Knockdown of HIF-1α expression by siRNA in the MET WM9 melanoma cell line resulted in a large decrease in both soft agar colony formation and matrigel invasion relative to cells treated with non-specific siRNA. There is a high level of ERK1/2 phosphorylation in WM9 cells, indicating an activated Ras-Raf-MEK-ERK1/2 MAPK pathway. Treatment of WM9 cells with 30 μM U0126 MEK inhibitor, decreased ERK1/2 phosphorylation and resulted in a decrease in HIF-1α expression. However, a 24 h treatment with 10 μM U0126 totally eliminated Erk1/2 phosphorylation, but did not change HIF-1alpha levels. Furthermore, siRNA knockdown of MEK siRNA did not change HIF-1alpha levels.
We speculate that metabolic products of U0126 decrease HIF-1alpha expression through "off target" effects. Overall our data suggest that increased HIF-1α expression under normoxic conditions contributes to some of the malignant phenotypes exhibited by human melanoma cells. The expanded role of HIF-1α in melanoma biology increases its importance as a therapeutic target.
PMCID: PMC2781803  PMID: 19919690
5.  The Chaperone-Dependent Ubiquitin Ligase CHIP Targets HIF-1α for Degradation in the Presence of Methylglyoxal 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e15062.
Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) plays a key role in cell adaptation to low oxygen and stabilization of HIF-1 is vital to ensure cell survival under hypoxia. Diabetes has been associated with impairment of the cell response to hypoxia and downregulation of HIF-1 is most likely the event that transduces hyperglycemia into increased cell death in diabetes-associated hypoxia. In this study, we aimed at identifying the molecular mechanism implicated in destabilization of HIF-1 by high glucose. In this work, we identified a new molecular mechanism whereby methylglyoxal (MGO), which accumulates in high-glucose conditions, led to a rapid proteasome-dependent degradation of HIF-1α under hypoxia. Significantly, MGO-induced degradation of HIF-1α did not require the recruitment of the ubiquitin ligase pVHL nor did it require hydroxylation of the proline residues P402/P564 of HIF-1α. Moreover, we identified CHIP (Carboxy terminus of Hsp70-Interacting Protein) as the E3 ligase that ubiquitinated HIF-1α in the presence of MGO. Consistently, silencing of endogenous CHIP and overexpression of glyoxalase I both stabilized HIF-1α under hypoxia in the presence of MGO. Data shows that increased association of Hsp40/70 with HIF-1α led to recruitment of CHIP, which promoted polyubiquitination and degradation of HIF-1α. Moreover, MGO-induced destabilization of HIF-1α led to a dramatic decrease in HIF-1 transcriptional activity. Altogether, data is consistent with a new pathway for degradation of HIF-1α in response to intracellular accumulation of MGO. Moreover, we suggest that accumulation of MGO is likely to be the link between high glucose and the loss of cell response to hypoxia in diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2993942  PMID: 21124777
6.  Zinc Downregulates HIF-1α and Inhibits Its Activity in Tumor Cells In Vitro and In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15048.
Hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) is responsible for the majority of HIF-1-induced gene expression changes under hypoxia and for the “angiogenic switch” during tumor progression. HIF-1α is often upregulated in tumors leading to more aggressive tumor growth and chemoresistance, therefore representing an important target for antitumor intervention. We previously reported that zinc downregulated HIF-1α levels. Here, we evaluated the molecular mechanisms of zinc-induced HIF-1α downregulation and whether zinc affected HIF-1α also in vivo.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we report that zinc downregulated HIF-1α protein levels in human prostate cancer and glioblastoma cells under hypoxia, whether induced or constitutive. Investigations into the molecular mechanisms showed that zinc induced HIF-1α proteasomal degradation that was prevented by treatment with proteasomal inhibitor MG132. HIF-1α downregulation induced by zinc was ineffective in human RCC4 VHL-null renal carcinoma cell line; likewise, the HIF-1αP402/P564A mutant was resistant to zinc treatment. Similarly to HIF-1α, zinc downregulated also hypoxia-induced HIF-2α whereas the HIF-1β subunit remained unchanged. Zinc inhibited HIF-1α recruitment onto VEGF promoter and the zinc-induced suppression of HIF-1-dependent activation of VEGF correlated with reduction of glioblastoma and prostate cancer cell invasiveness in vitro. Finally, zinc administration downregulated HIF-1α levels in vivo, by bioluminescence imaging, and suppressed intratumoral VEGF expression.
These findings, by demonstrating that zinc induces HIF-1α proteasomal degradation, indicate that zinc could be useful as an inhibitor of HIF-1α in human tumors to repress important pathways involved in tumor progression, such as those induced by VEGF, MDR1, and Bcl2 target genes, and hopefully potentiate the anticancer therapies.
PMCID: PMC3001454  PMID: 21179202
7.  In vitro Ischemia Suppresses Hypoxic Induction of Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1α by Inhibition of Synthesis and Not Enhanced Degradation 
Journal of neuroscience research  2013;91(8):1066-1075.
Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) mediates a broad, conserved adaptive response to hypoxia, and the HIF pathway is a potential therapeutic target in cerebral ischemia. In this study, we investigated the mechanism by which in vitro ischemia (oxygen-glucose deprivation, OGD) affects canonical hypoxic HIF-1α stabilization. We validated the use of a reporter containing the oxygen dependent degradation domain of HIF-1α fused to firefly luciferase (ODD-luc) to quantitatively monitor distinct biochemical events leading to hypoxic HIF-1α expression or stabilization in a human neuroblastoma cell line (SH-SY5Y). When OGD was imposed following a 2 hour hypoxic stabilization of ODD-luc, the levels of the reporter were reduced, consistent with prior models proposing that OGD enhances HIF prolyl hydroxylase (PHD) activity. Surprisingly, PHD inhibitors and proteasome inhibitors do not stabilize ODD-luc in OGD. Further, OGD does not affect the half-life of ODD-luc protein following hypoxia, suggesting that OGD abrogates hypoxic HIF-1α induction by reducing HIF-1α synthesis rather than by enhancing its degradation. We observed ATP depletion under OGD versus hypoxia, and propose that ATP depletion enhances translational suppression, overcoming the selective synthesis of HIF concurrent with global decreases in protein synthesis in hypoxia. Taken together, these findings biochemically characterize a practical reporter for monitoring HIF-1α levels and support a novel model for HIF regulation in an in vitro model of human ischemia.
PMCID: PMC4321689  PMID: 23456821
HIF-1α; prolyl hydroxylase; oxygen and glucose deprivation; ischemia
8.  CDK1 stabilizes HIF-1α via direct phosphorylation of Ser668 to promote tumor growth 
Cell Cycle  2013;12(23):3689-3701.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is a major mediator of tumor physiology, and its activation is correlated with tumor progression, metastasis, and therapeutic resistance. HIF-1 is activated in a broad range of solid tumors due to intratumoral hypoxia or genetic alterations that enhance its expression or inhibit its degradation. As a result, decreasing HIF-1α expression represents an attractive strategy to sensitize hypoxic tumors to anticancer therapies. Here, we show that cyclin-dependent kinase 1 (CDK1) regulates the expression of HIF-1α, independent of its known regulators. Overexpression of CDK1 and/or cyclin B1 is sufficient to stabilize HIF-1α under normoxic conditions, whereas inhibition of CDK1 enhances the proteasomal degradation of HIF-1α, reducing its half-life and steady-state levels. In vitro kinase assays reveal that CDK1 directly phosphorylates HIF-1α at a previously unidentified regulatory site, Ser668. HIF-1α is stabilized under normoxic conditions during G2/M phase via CDK1-mediated phosphorylation of Ser668. A phospho-mimetic construct of HIF-1α at Ser668 (S668E) is significantly more stable under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions, resulting in enhanced transcription of HIF-1 target genes and increased tumor cell invasion and migration. Importantly, HIF-1α (S668E) displays increased tumor angiogenesis, proliferation, and tumor growth in vivo compared with wild-type HIF-1α. Thus, we have identified a novel link between CDK1 and HIF-1α that provides a potential molecular explanation for the elevated HIF-1 activity observed in primary and metastatic tumors, independent of hypoxia, and offers a molecular rationale for the clinical translation of CDK inhibitors for use in tumors with constitutively active HIF-1.
PMCID: PMC3903720  PMID: 24189531
CDK1; HIF-1α; angiogenesis; cell cycle; hypoxia
9.  TonEBP and HIF Coordinate Hsp70 Expression in Hypoxic Nucleus Pulposus Cells: Role of Hsp70 in HIF-1α Degradation 
Journal of Bone and Mineral Research  2012;27(5):1106-1117.
The objective of our study was to examine the regulation of hypoxic expression of Hsp70 in nucleus pulposus cells and to determine if Hsp70 promoted HIF-1α degradation. Rat nucleus pulposus cells were maintained in culture in either 21% or 1% oxygen. To determine the regulation of Hsp70 expression by Tonicity enhancer binding protein (TonEBP) and HIF-1/2, loss- and gain-of-function experiments and mutational analysis of Hsp70 promoter were performed. Hypoxia increased Hsp70 expression in nucleus pulposus cells. Noteworthy, hypoxia increased TonEBP transactivation and mutation of TonE motifs blocked hypoxic induction of Hsp70 promoter. In contrast, mutation of HRE motifs coupled with loss of function experiments suggested that HIF-1 and HIF-2 suppressed Hsp70 promoter activity and transcription. Interestingly, HIF-α interferes with TonEBP function and suppresses inductive effect of TonEBP on Hsp70 promoter. In terms of Hsp70 function, when treated with Hsp70 transcriptional inhibitor, KNK437, there was an increase in HIF-1α protein stability and transcriptional activity. Likewise, when Hsp70 was overexpressed, the stability of HIF-1α and its transcriptional activity decreased. Hsp70 interacted with HIF-1α under hypoxic conditions and evidenced increased binding when treated with MG132, a proteasomal inhibitor. These results suggest that Hsp70 may promote HIF-1α degradation through proteasomal pathway in nucleus pulposus cells. In hypoxic and hyperosmolar nucleus pulposus cells, Hsp70, TonEBP and HIFs form a regulatory loop. We propose that the positive regulation by TonEBP and negative regulation of Hsp70 by HIF-1 and HIF-2 may serve to maintain Hsp70 levels in these cells, whereas Hsp70 may function in controlling HIF-1α homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC3330204  PMID: 22322648
intervertebral disc; nucleus pulposus cells; hypoxia; HIF-1α; Hsp70; TonEBP
10.  Effects of 12 metal ions on iron regulatory protein 1 (IRP-1) and hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α) and HIF-regulated genes 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2006;213(3):245-255.
Several metal ions that are carcinogenic affect cellular iron homeostasis by competing with iron transporters or iron-regulated enzymes. Some metal ions can mimic a hypoxia response in cells under normal oxygen tension, and induce expression of HIF-1α-regulated genes. This study investigated whether 12 metal ions altered iron homeostasis in human lung carcinoma A549 cells as measured by an activation of IRP-1 and ferritin level. We also studied hypoxia signaling by measuring HIF-1α protein levels, hypoxia response element (HRE)-driven luciferase reporter activity, and Cap43 protein level (an HIF-1α responsive gene). Our results show the following: (i) Ni(II), Co(II), V(V), Mn(II), and to a lesser extent As(III) and Cu(II) activated the binding of IRP-1 to IRE after 24 h, while the other metal ions had no effect; (ii) 10 of 12 metal ions induced HIF-1α protein but to strikingly different degrees. Two of these metal ions, Al(III) and Cd(II), did not induce HIF-1α protein; however, as indicated below, only Ni(II), Co (II), and to lesser extent Mn(II) and V(V) activated HIF-1α-dependent transcription. The combined effects of both [Ni(II) + As(III)] and [Ni(II) + Cr(VI)] on HIF-1α protein were synergistic; (iii) Addition of Fe(II) with Ni(II), Co(II), and Cr(VI) attenuated the induction of HIF-1α after 4 h treatment; (iv) Ni(II), Co(II), and Mn(II) significantly decrease ferritin level after 24 h exposure; (v) Ni(II), Co(II), V (V), and Mn(II) activated HRE reporter gene after 20 h treatment; (vi) Ni(II), Co(II), V(V), and Mn(II) increased the HIF-1-dependent Cap43 protein level after 24 h treatment. In conclusion, only Ni (II), Co (II), and to a lesser extent Mn(II) and V(V) significantly stabilized HIF-1α protein, activated IRP, decreased the levels of ferritin, induced the transcription of HIF-dependent reporter, and increased the expression of Cap43 protein levels (HIF-dependent gene). The mechanism for the significant stabilization and elevation of HIF-1α protein which drives these other parameters was previously shown by us and others to involve a loss of cellular Fe as well as inhibition of HIF-1α-dependent prolyl hydroxylases which target the binding of VHL ubiquitin ligase and degrade HIF-1α. Even though there were small effects of some of the other metals on IRP and HIF-1α, downstream effects of HIF-1α activation and therefore robust hypoxia signaling were only observed with Ni(II), Co(II), and to much lesser extents with Mn(II) and V(V) in human A549 lung cells. It is of interest that the metal ions that were most effective in activating hypoxia signaling were the ones that were poor inducers of metallothionein protein and also decreased Ferritin levels, since both of these proteins can bind metal ions and protect the cell against toxicity in human lung cells. It is important to study effects of these metals in human lung cells since this represents a major route of human environmental and occupational exposure to these metal ions.
PMCID: PMC2965073  PMID: 16386771
Metal ions; IRP-1; HIF-1α; HRE; Cap43
11.  Evolutionary Conserved Regulation of HIF-1β by NF-κB 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(1):e1001285.
Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1 (HIF-1) is essential for mammalian development and is the principal transcription factor activated by low oxygen tensions. HIF-α subunit quantities and their associated activity are regulated in a post-translational manner, through the concerted action of a class of enzymes called Prolyl Hydroxylases (PHDs) and Factor Inhibiting HIF (FIH) respectively. However, alternative modes of HIF-α regulation such as translation or transcription are under-investigated, and their importance has not been firmly established. Here, we demonstrate that NF-κB regulates the HIF pathway in a significant and evolutionary conserved manner. We demonstrate that NF-κB directly regulates HIF-1β mRNA and protein. In addition, we found that NF-κB–mediated changes in HIF-1β result in modulation of HIF-2α protein. HIF-1β overexpression can rescue HIF-2α protein levels following NF-κB depletion. Significantly, NF-κB regulates HIF-1β (tango) and HIF-α (sima) levels and activity (Hph/fatiga, ImpL3/ldha) in Drosophila, both in normoxia and hypoxia, indicating an evolutionary conserved mode of regulation. These results reveal a novel mechanism of HIF regulation, with impact in the development of novel therapeutic strategies for HIF–related pathologies including ageing, ischemia, and cancer.
Author Summary
The mechanisms by which cells and organisms respond to oxygen are of extreme importance for development and also for certain pathologies such as cancer, ageing, and ischemia. These are mediated by a family of transcription factors called hypoxia inducible factor (HIF), a factor that coordinates expression of a great number of genes. Significantly, these processes are evolutionary conserved from worms to humans. It is known that regulation of HIF occurs to a great extent through protein degradation. However, other important mechanisms of HIF control are currently being investigated. In this study, we have uncovered a novel mechanism of HIF regulation that relies on the action of another transcription factor family called NF-κB. We have found that NF-κB controls the levels of HIF-1α and HIF-1β genes by direct regulation. Furthermore, through its control of HIF-1β, NF-κB indirectly controls HIF-2α. Importantly, we find that this mechanism is conserved in Drosophila and mice. These results suggest an alternative avenue for therapeutic intervention in the HIF pathway, which has important implications for many human diseases.
PMCID: PMC3029248  PMID: 21298084
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2011;112(12):3882-3890.
Hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) stimulates expression of genes associated with angiogenesis and is associated with poor outcomes in ovarian and other cancers. In normoxia, HIF-1α is ubiquitinated and degraded through the E3 ubiquitin ligase, von Hippel-Lindau; however, little is known about the regulation of HIF-1α in hypoxic conditions. FBW7 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that recognizes proteins phosphorylated by glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) and targets them for destruction. This study used an ovarian cancer cell model to test the hypothesis that HIF-1α phosphorylation by GSK3β in hypoxia leads to interaction with FBW7 and ubiquitin-dependent degradation. Expression of constitutively active GSK3β reduced HIF-1α protein and transcriptional activity and increased ubiquitination of HIF-1α in hypoxia, whereas pharmacologic inhibition of GSK3 or expression of siGSK3β promoted HIF-1α stabilization and activity. A mechanism through FBW7 was supported by the observed decrease in HIF-1α stabilization when FBW7 was overexpressed and both the elevation of HIF-1α levels and decrease in ubiquitinated HIF-1α when FBW7 was suppressed. Furthermore, HIF-1α associated with FBW7γ by co-immunoprecipitation, and the interaction was weakened by inhibition of GSK3 or mutation of GSK3β phosphorylation sites. The relevance of this pathway to angiogenic signaling was supported by the finding that endothelial cell tube maturation was increased by conditioned media from hypoxic SK-OV-3 cell lines expressing suppressed GSK3β or FBW7. These data introduce a new mechanism for regulation of HIF-1α during hypoxia that utilizes phosphorylation to target HIF-1α for ubiquitin-dependent degradation through FBW7 and may identify new targets in the regulation of angiogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3202039  PMID: 21964756
angiogenesis; AKT; ubiquitination; transcription factor; ovarian cancer; endothelial cells
13.  Relation of hypoxia inducible factor 1α and 2α in operable non-small cell lung cancer to angiogenic/molecular profile of tumours and survival 
British Journal of Cancer  2001;85(6):881-890.
Hypoxia inducible factors HIF1α and HIF2α are important proteins involved in the regulation of the transcription of a variety of genes related to erythropoiesis, glycolysis and angiogenesis. Hypoxic stimulation results in rapid increase of the HIF1α and 2α protein levels, as a consequence of a redox-sensitive stabilization. The HIFαs enter the nucleus, heterodimerize with the HIF1β protein, and bind to DNA at the hypoxia response elements (HREs) of target genes. In this study we evaluated the immunohistochemical expression of these proteins in 108 tissue samples from non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and in normal lung tissues. Both proteins showed a mixed cytoplasmic/nuclear pattern of expression in cancer cells, tumoural vessels and tumour-infiltrating macrophages, as well as in areas of metaplasia, while normal lung components showed negative or very weak cytoplasmic staining. Positive HIF1α and HIF2α expression was noted in 68/108 (62%) and in 54/108 (50%) of cases respectively. Correlation analysis of HIF2α expression with HIF1α expression showed a significant association (P < 0.0001, r = 0.44). A strong association of the expression of both proteins with the angiogenic factors VEGF (P < 0.004), PD-ECGF (P < 0.003) and bFGF (P < 0.04) was noted. HIF1α correlated with the expression of bek-bFGF receptor expression (P = 0.01), while HIF2α was associated with intense VEGF/KDR-activated vascularization (P = 0.002). HIF2α protein was less frequently expressed in cases with a medium microvessel density (MVD); a high rate of expression was noted in cases with both low and high MVD (P = 0.006). Analysis of overall survival showed that HIF2α expression was related to poor outcome (P = 0.008), even in the group of patients with low MVD (P = 0.009). HIF1α expression was marginally associated with poor prognosis (P = 0.08). In multivariate analysis HIF2α expression was an independent prognostic indicator (P = 0.006, t-ratio 2.7). We conclude that HIF1α and HIF2α overexpression is a common event in NSCLC, which is related to the up-regulation of various angiogenic factors and with poor prognosis. Targeting the HIF pathway may prove of importance in the treatment of NSCLC. © 2001 Cancer Research Campaign
PMCID: PMC2375073  PMID: 11556841
non-small-cell lung cancer; hypoxia inducible factors; angiogenesis; prognosis
14.  Assessment of Hypoxia Inducible Factor Levels in Cancer Cell Lines upon Hypoxic Induction Using a Novel Reporter Construct 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27460.
Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) signaling pathway is important for tumor cells with limited oxygen supplies, as it is shown to be involved in the process of proliferation and angiogenesis. Given its pivotal role in cancer biology, robust assays for tracking changes in HIF expression are necessary for understanding its regulation in cancer as well as developing therapies that target HIF signaling. Here we report a novel HIF reporter construct containing tandem repeats of minimum HIF binding sites upstream of eYFP coding sequence. We show that the reporter construct has an excellent signal to background ratio and the reporter activity is HIF dependent and directly correlates with HIF protein levels. By utilizing this new construct, we assayed HIF activity levels in different cancer cell lines cultured in various degrees of hypoxia. This analysis reveals a surprising cancer cell line specific variation of HIF activity in the same level of hypoxia. We further show that in two cervical cancer cell lines, ME180 and HeLa, the different HIF activity levels observed correlate with the levels of hsp90, a cofactor that protects HIF against VHL-independent degradation. This novel HIF reporter construct serves as a tool to rapidly define HIF activity levels and therefore the therapeutic capacity of potential HIF repressors in individual cancers.
PMCID: PMC3223176  PMID: 22132102
15.  Emerging evidence of the physiological role of hypoxia in mammary development and lactation 
Hypoxia is a physiological or pathological condition of a deficiency of oxygen supply in the body as a whole or within a tissue. During hypoxia, tissues undergo a series of physiological responses to defend themselves against a low oxygen supply, including increased angiogenesis, erythropoiesis, and glucose uptake. The effects of hypoxia are mainly mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), which is a heterodimeric transcription factor consisting of α and β subunits. HIF-1β is constantly expressed, whereas HIF-1α is degraded under normal oxygen conditions. Hypoxia stabilizes HIF-1α and the HIF complex, and HIF then translocates into the nucleus to initiate the expression of target genes. Hypoxia has been extensively studied for its role in promoting tumor progression, and emerging evidence also indicates that hypoxia may play important roles in physiological processes, including mammary development and lactation. The mammary gland exhibits an increasing metabolic rate from pregnancy to lactation to support mammary growth, lactogenesis, and lactation. This process requires increasing amounts of oxygen consumption and results in localized chronic hypoxia as confirmed by the binding of the hypoxia marker pimonidazole HCl in mouse mammary gland. We hypothesized that this hypoxic condition promotes mammary development and lactation, a hypothesis that is supported by the following several lines of evidence: i) Mice with an HIF-1α deletion selective for the mammary gland have impaired mammary differentiation and lipid secretion, resulting in lactation failure and striking changes in milk compositions; ii) We recently observed that hypoxia significantly induces HIF-1α-dependent glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression in mammary epithelial cells, which may be responsible for the dramatic increases in glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression in the mammary gland during the transition period from late pregnancy to early lactation; and iii) Hypoxia and HIF-1α increase the phosphorylation of signal transducers and activators of transcription 5a (STAT5a) in mammary epithelial cells, whereas STAT5 phosphorylation plays important roles in the regulation of milk protein gene expression and mammary development. Based on these observations, hypoxia effects emerge as a new frontier for studying the regulation of mammary development and lactation.
PMCID: PMC3929241  PMID: 24444333
Glucose transporter; Hypoxia; Hypoxia inducible factor; Lactation; Mammary development; Metabolism
16.  Inhibition of HIF-1alpha activity by homeodomain-interacting protein kinase-2 correlates with sensitization of chemoresistant cells to undergo apoptosis 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:1.
Homeodomain-interacting protein kinase-2 (HIPK2), a transcriptional co-repressor with apoptotic function, can affect hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) transcriptional activity, through downmodulation of its HIF-1α subunit, in normoxic condition. Under hypoxia, a condition often found in solid tumors, HIF-1α is activated to induce target genes involved in chemoresistance, inhibition of apoptosis and tumor progression. Here, we investigated whether the HIPK2 overexpression could downregulate HIF-1α expression and activity in tumor cells treated with hypoxia-mimicking condition, and evaluated whether HIPK2-dependent downregulation of HIF-1α could sensitize chemoresistant tumor cells to adriamycin (ADR)-induced apoptosis.
Tumor cell lines carrying wild-type p53, siRNA p53, or mutant p53 were overexpressed with HIPK2 (full length or catalytic inactive mutant) and treated with cobalt chloride (CoCl2) to mimic hypoxia, in the presence or absence of ADR treatment. HIF-1α expression was measured by semiquantitative reverse-transcriptase (RT)-PCR and Western immunoblotting and HIF-1 activity was evaluated by luciferase assay using reporter plasmid containing hypoxia response elements (HREs) upstream of luciferase gene. HIF-1 target genes, including multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1) and the antiapoptotic Bcl2 were determined by RT-PCR. Cell survival and apoptosis were measured by colony assay and cleavage of the caspase-3 substrate PARP, respectively.
Overexpression of HIPK2 resulted in downmodulation of cobalt-stabilized HIF-1α protein and HIF-1α mRNA levels, with subsequent inhibition of HIF-1 transcriptional activity. MDR1 and Bcl-2 gene expression was downmodulated by HIPK2 overexpression in cobalt-treated cells. Inhibition of HIF-1 transcriptional activity was dependent on HIPK2 catalytic activity. HIPK2 overexpression did not induce per se apoptosis of cobalt-treated cells, on the contrary it sensitized cobalt-treated cells to ADR-induced apoptosis, regardless of their p53 status.
The ability of HIPK2 to restore the apoptosis-inducing potential of chemotherapeutic drug in hypoxia-mimicking condition and therefore to sensitize chemoresistant tumor cells suggests that HIPK2 may induce fundamental alterations in cell signaling pathways, involving or not p53 function. Thus potential use of HIPK2 is promising for cancer treatment by potentiating cytotoxic therapies, regardless of p53 cell status.
PMCID: PMC2628864  PMID: 19128456
17.  Tight Control of Hypoxia-inducible Factor-α Transient Dynamics Is Essential for Cell Survival in Hypoxia 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2014;289(9):5549-5564.
Background: Hypoxia inducible factor-α (HIF-α) is the main transcription factor activated in low oxygen conditions.
Results: Single cell imaging reveals pulses in nuclear levels of HIF-α.
Conclusion: The transient nature of the HIF-α nuclear accumulation is required to avoid cell death.
Significance: The duration of HIF-α response depends on cellular oxygenation, and can encode information and dictate cell fate.
Intracellular signaling involving hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) controls the adaptive responses to hypoxia. There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that intracellular signals encode temporal information. Thus, the dynamics of protein levels, as well as protein quantity and/or localization, impacts on cell fate. We hypothesized that such temporal encoding has a role in HIF signaling and cell fate decisions triggered by hypoxic conditions. Using live cell imaging in a controlled oxygen environment, we observed transient 3-h pulses of HIF-1α and -2α expression under continuous hypoxia. We postulated that the well described prolyl hydroxylase (PHD) oxygen sensors and HIF negative feedback regulators could be the origin of the pulsatile HIF dynamics. We used iterative mathematical modeling and experimental analysis to scrutinize which parameter of the PHD feedback could control HIF timing and we probed for the functional redundancy between the three main PHD proteins. We identified PHD2 as the main PHD responsible for HIF peak duration. We then demonstrated that this has important consequences, because the transient nature of the HIF pulse prevents cell death by avoiding transcription of p53-dependent pro-apoptotic genes. We have further shown the importance of considering HIF dynamics for coupling mathematical models by using a described HIF-p53 mathematical model. Our results indicate that the tight control of HIF transient dynamics has important functional consequences on the cross-talk with key signaling pathways controlling cell survival, which is likely to impact on HIF targeting strategies for hypoxia-associated diseases such as tumor progression and ischemia.
PMCID: PMC3937633  PMID: 24394419
Cell Death; Hypoxia; Hypoxia-inducible Factor; Imaging; Mathematical Modeling; Negative Feedback Loop; p53; Prolyl Hydroxylase
18.  Cloning and expression analysis of two distinct HIF-alpha isoforms – gcHIF-1alpha and gcHIF-4alpha – from the hypoxia-tolerant grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idellus 
Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are involved in adaptive and survival responses to hypoxic stress in mammals. In fish, very little is known about the functions of HIFs.
We have cloned and characterized two distinct HIF-alpha cDNAs – gcHIF-1alpha and gcHIF-4alpha – from the hypoxia-tolerant grass carp. The deduced gcHIF-1alpha protein is highly similar to the HIF-1alphas (57–68%) from various vertebrate species, while gcHIF-4alpha is a novel isoform, and shows an equivalent degree of amino acid identity (41–47%) to the HIF-1alpha, HIF-2alpha and HIF-3alpha proteins so far described. Parsimony analysis indicated that gcHIF-4alpha is most closely related to the HIF-3alpha proteins. Northern blot analysis showed that mRNA levels of gcHIF-1alpha and gcHIF-4alpha differ substantially under normoxic and hypoxic conditions, while Western blot studies demonstrated that the endogenous protein levels for both gcHIF-1alpha and gcHIF-4alpha are similarly responsive to hypoxia. Our findings suggest that both gcHIF-1alpha and gcHIF-4alpha are differentially regulated at the transcriptional and translational levels. HRE-luciferase reporter assays show that both proteins function as transcription activators and play distinct roles in modulating the hypoxic response in grass carp.
There are at least two distinct HIF-alpha isoforms – gcHIF-1alpha and gcHIF-4alpha – in the hypoxia-tolerant grass carp, which are differentially expressed and regulated in different fish organs in response to hypoxic stress. Overall, the results suggest that unique molecular mechanisms operate through these two HIF-alpha isoforms, which underpin the hypoxic response in the hypoxia-tolerant grass carp.
PMCID: PMC1473195  PMID: 16623959
19.  Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-2α Is an Essential Catabolic Regulator of Inflammatory Rheumatoid Arthritis 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(6):e1001881.
Hypoxia-inducible factor-2α (HIF-2α) is sufficient to cause experimental rheumatoid arthritis and acts to regulate the functions of fibroblast-like cells from tissue surrounding joints, independent of HIF-1α.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disorder that manifests as chronic inflammation and joint tissue destruction. However, the etiology and pathogenesis of RA have not been fully elucidated. Here, we explored the role of the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs), HIF-1α (encoded by HIF1A) and HIF-2α (encoded by EPAS1). HIF-2α was markedly up-regulated in the intimal lining of RA synovium, whereas HIF-1α was detected in a few cells in the sublining and deep layer of RA synovium. Overexpression of HIF-2α in joint tissues caused an RA-like phenotype, whereas HIF-1α did not affect joint architecture. Moreover, a HIF-2α deficiency in mice blunted the development of experimental RA. HIF-2α was expressed mainly in fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) of RA synovium and regulated their proliferation, expression of RANKL (receptor activator of nuclear factor–κB ligand) and various catabolic factors, and osteoclastogenic potential. Moreover, HIF-2α–dependent up-regulation of interleukin (IL)-6 in FLS stimulated differentiation of TH17 cells—crucial effectors of RA pathogenesis. Additionally, in the absence of IL-6 (Il6−/− mice), overexpression of HIF-2α in joint tissues did not cause an RA phenotype. Thus, our results collectively suggest that HIF-2α plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of RA by regulating FLS functions, independent of HIF-1α.
Author Summary
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disorder characterized by chronic inflammation in joint tissues leading to destruction of cartilage and bone. Despite some therapeutic advances, the etiology of RA pathogenesis is not yet clear, and effective treatment of RA remains a significant, unmet medical need. Hypoxia is a prominent feature of inflamed tissue within RA-affected joints, and earlier work has implicated limited involvement of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1 α. We explored the role of a second HIF family member, HIF-2α, in RA pathogenesis. We showed that HIF-2α is markedly increased in the tissue lining the RA-affected joints. Notably and in contrast to HIF-1α, when overexpressed in normal mouse joint tissues, HIF-2α is sufficient to cause RA-like symptoms. Conversely, an HIF-2α deficiency blocks the development of experimental arthritis in mice. We discovered further that HIF-2α regulates RA pathogenesis by modulating various RA-associated functions of joint-specific fibroblast-like cells, including proliferation, expression of cytokines, chemokines, and matrix-degrading enzymes, and bone-remodeling potential. HIF-2α also increases the ability of these cells to promote interleukin-6–dependent differentiation of TH17 cells, a known effector of RA pathogenesis. We thus show that HIF-1α and HIF-2α have distinct roles and act via different mechanisms in RA pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4051611  PMID: 24914685
20.  The Hypoxia-Associated Factor Switches Cells from HIF-1α– to HIF-2α–Dependent Signaling Promoting Stem Cell Characteristics, Aggressive Tumor Growth and Invasion 
Cancer Research  2011;71(11):4015-4027.
Most solid tumors and their metastases experience periods of low oxygen or hypoxia, which is of major clinical significance as it promotes both tumor progression and resistance to therapy. Critical mediators of the hypoxic response are the hypoxia-inducible factors HIF-1α and HIF-2α. The HIFs are nonredundant and regulate both overlapping and unique downstream target genes. Here, we describe a novel mechanism for the switch between HIF-1α– and HIF-2α–dependent transcription during tumor hypoxia caused by the hypoxia associated factor (HAF). HAF is overexpressed in a variety of tumors and its levels are decreased during acute hypoxia, but increased following prolonged hypoxia. We have previously identified HAF as an E3 ubiquitin ligase that binds and ubiquitinates HIF-1α by an oxygen and pVHL-independent mechanism, thus targeting HIF-1α for proteasomal degradation. Here, we show that HAF also binds to HIF-2α, but at a different site than HIF-1α, and increases HIF-2α transactivation without causing its degradation. HAF, thus, switches the hypoxic response of the cancer cell from HIF-1α–dependent to HIF-2α–dependent transcription and activates genes involved in invasion such as MMP9, PAI-1, and the stem cell factor OCT-3/4. The switch to HIF-2α–dependent gene expression caused by HAF also promotes an enriched tumor stem cell population, resulting in highly aggressive tumors in vivo. Thus, HAF, by causing a switch from a HIF-1α– to HIF-2α–dependent response to hypoxia, provides a mechanism for more aggressive growth of tumors under prolonged hypoxia.
PMCID: PMC3268651  PMID: 21512133
21.  Degradation of HIF-1alpha under Hypoxia Combined with Induction of Hsp90 Polyubiquitination in Cancer Cells by Hypericin: a Unique Cancer Therapy 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e22849.
The perihydroxylated perylene quinone hypericin has been reported to possess potent anti-metastatic and antiangiogenic activities, generated by targeting diverse crossroads of cancer-promoting processes via unique mechanisms. Hypericin is the only known exogenous reagent that can induce forced poly-ubiquitination and accelerated degradation of heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) in cancer cells. Hsp90 client proteins are thereby destabilized and rapidly degraded. Hsp70 client proteins may potentially be also affected via preventing formation of hsp90-hsp70 intermediate complexes. We show here that hypericin also induces enhanced degradation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) in two human tumor cell lines, U87-MG glioblastoma and RCC-C2VHL−/− renal cell carcinoma and in the non-malignant ARPE19 retinal pigment epithelial cell line. The hypericin-accelerated turnover of HIF-1α, the regulatory precursor of the HIF-1 transcription factor which promotes hypoxic stress and angiogenic responses, overcomes the physiologic HIF-1α protein stabilization which occurs in hypoxic cells. The hypericin effect also eliminates the high HIF-1α levels expressed constitutively in the von-Hippel Lindau protein (pVHL)-deficient RCC-C2VHL−/− renal cell carcinoma cell line. Unlike the normal ubiquitin-proteasome pathway-dependent turnover of HIF-α proteins which occurs in normoxia, the hypericin-induced HIF-1α catabolism can occur independently of cellular oxygen levels or pVHL-promoted ubiquitin ligation of HIF-1α. It is mediated by lysosomal cathepsin-B enzymes with cathepsin-B activity being optimized in the cells through hypericin-mediated reduction in intracellular pH. Our findings suggest that hypericin may potentially be useful in preventing growth of tumors in which HIF-1α plays pivotal roles, and in pVHL ablated tumor cells such as renal cell carcinoma through elimination of elevated HIF-1α contents in these cells, scaling down the excessive angiogenesis which characterizes these tumors.
PMCID: PMC3176203  PMID: 21949677
22.  COMMD1 Promotes pVHL and O2-Independent Proteolysis of HIF-1α via HSP90/70 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7332.
The Copper Metabolism MURR1 Domain containing 1 protein COMMD1 has been associated with copper homeostasis, NF-κB signaling, and sodium transport. Recently, we identified COMMD1 as a novel protein in HIF-1 signaling. Mouse embryos deficient for Commd1 have increased expression of hypoxia/HIF-regulated genes i.e. VEGF, PGK and Bnip3. Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are master regulators of oxygen homeostasis, which control angiogenesis, erythropoiesis, glycolysis and cell survival/proliferation under normal and pathologic conditions. Although HIF activity is mainly controlled by ubiquitination and protein degradation by the von Hippel Lindau (pVHL) tumor suppressor gene other mechanisms have recently been identified that regulate HIF signaling independently of pVHL.
Principal Findings
Here we characterized the mechanism by which COMMD1 regulates HIF-1α protein degradation. We show that COMMD1 competes with the chaperone heat shock protein HSP90β for binding to the NH2-terminal DNA-binding and heterodimerization domain of HIF-1α to regulate HIF-1α stability together with HSP70. Inhibition of HSP90 activity with 17-Allylamino-17-demethoxygeldanamycin (17-AAG) increased COMMD1-mediated HIF-1α degradation independent of ubiquitin and pVHL.
These data reveal a novel role for COMMD1 in conjunction with HSP90β/HSP70 in the ubiquitin and O2-independent regulation of HIF-1α.
PMCID: PMC2750754  PMID: 19802386
23.  Hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha is a critical mediator of hypoxia induced apoptosis in cardiac H9c2 and kidney epithelial HK-2 cells 
Hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a transcription factor that functions to maintain cellular homeostasis in response to hypoxia. There is evidence that HIF-1 can also trigger apoptosis, possibly when cellular responses are inadequate to meet energy demands under hypoxic conditions.
Cardiac derived H9c2 and renal tubular epithelial HK-2 cells expressing either the wild type oxygen regulated subunit of HIF-1 (pcDNA3-Hif-1α) or a dominant negative version that lacked both DNA binding and transactivation domains (pcDNA3-DN-Hif-1α), were maintained in culture and exposed to hypoxia. An RNA interference approach was also employed to selectively knockdown expression of Hif-1α. Apoptosis was analyzed in both H9c2 and HK-2 cells by Hoechst and TUNEL staining, caspase 3 activity assays and activation of pro-apoptotic Bcl2 family member Bax.
Overexpression of pcDNA3-DN-Hif-1α led to a significant reduction in hypoxia -induced apoptosis (17 ± 2%, P < 0.01) in H9c2 cells compared to both control-transfected and wild type Hif-1α transfected cells. Moreover, selective ablation of HIF-1α protein expression by RNA interference in H9c2 cells led to 55% reduction of caspase 3 activity and 46% reduction in the number of apoptotic cells as determined by Hoechst 33258 staining, after hypoxia. Finally, upregulation of the pro-apoptotic protein, Bax, was found in H9c2 cells overexpressing full-length pcDNA3-HA-HIF-1α exposed to hypoxia. In HK-2 cells overexpression of wild-type Hif-1α led to a two-fold increase in Hif-1α levels during hypoxia. This resulted in a 3.4-fold increase in apoptotic cells and a concomitant increase in caspase 3 activity during hypoxia when compared to vector transfected control cells. HIF-1α also induced upregulation of Bax in HK-2 cells. In addition, introduction of dominant negative Hif-1α constructs in both H9c2 and HK-2 -cells led to decreased active Bax expression.
These data demonstrate that HIF-1α is an important component of the apoptotic signaling machinery in the two cell types.
PMCID: PMC2387135  PMID: 18447926
24.  HIF-1α/GPER signaling mediates the expression of VEGF induced by hypoxia in breast cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) 
Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play a pivotal role in cancer progression by contributing to invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis. Solid tumors possess a unique microenvironment characterized by local hypoxia, which induces gene expression changes and biological features leading to poor outcomes. Hypoxia Inducible Factor 1 (HIF-1) is the main transcription factor that mediates the cell response to hypoxia through different mechanisms that include the regulation of genes strongly associated with cancer aggressiveness. Among the HIF-1 target genes, the G-protein estrogen receptor (GPER) exerts a stimulatory role in diverse types of cancer cells and in CAFs.
We evaluated the regulation and function of the key angiogenic mediator vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in CAFs exposed to hypoxia. Gene expression studies, Western blotting analysis and immunofluorescence experiments were performed in CAFs and breast cancer cells in the presence of cobalt chloride (CoCl2) or cultured under low oxygen tension (2% O2), in order to analyze the involvement of the HIF-1α/GPER signaling in the biological responses to hypoxia. We also explored the role of the HIF-1α/GPER transduction pathway in functional assays like tube formation in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and cell migration in CAFs.
We first determined that hypoxia induces the expression of HIF-1α and GPER in CAFs, then we ascertained that the HIF-1α/GPER signaling is involved in the regulation of VEGF expression in breast cancer cells and in CAFs exposed to hypoxia. We also assessed by ChIP assay that HIF-1α and GPER are both recruited to the VEGF promoter sequence and required for VEGF promoter stimulation upon hypoxic condition. As a biological counterpart of these findings, conditioned medium from hypoxic CAFs promoted tube formation in HUVECs in a HIF-1α/GPER dependent manner. The functional cooperation between HIF-1α and GPER in CAFs was also evidenced in the hypoxia-induced cell migration, which involved a further target of the HIF-1α/GPER signaling like connective tissue growth factor (CTGF).
The present results provide novel insight into the role elicited by the HIF-1α/GPER transduction pathway in CAFs towards the hypoxia-dependent tumor angiogenesis. Our findings further extend the molecular mechanisms through which the tumor microenvironment may contribute to cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3978922  PMID: 23947803
25.  Prolyl hydroxylase 2 dependent and Von-Hippel-Lindau independent degradation of Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 and 2 alpha by selenium in clear cell renal cell carcinoma leads to tumor growth inhibition 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:293.
Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) accounts for more than 80% of the cases of renal cell carcinoma. In ccRCC deactivation of Von-Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene contributes to the constitutive expression of hypoxia inducible factors 1 and 2 alpha (HIF-α), transcriptional regulators of several genes involved in tumor angiogenesis, glycolysis and drug resistance. We have demonstrated inhibition of HIF-1α by Se-Methylselenocysteine (MSC) via stabilization of prolyl hydroxylases 2 and 3 (PHDs) and a significant therapeutic synergy when combined with chemotherapy. This study was initiated to investigate the expression of PHDs, HIF-α, and VEGF-A in selected solid cancers, the mechanism of HIF-α inhibition by MSC, and to document antitumor activity of MSC against human ccRCC xenografts.
Tissue microarrays of primary human cancer specimens (ccRCC, head & neck and colon) were utilized to determine the incidence of PHD2/3, HIF-α, and VEGF-A by immunohistochemical methods. To investigate the mechanism(s) of HIF-α inhibition by MSC, VHL mutated ccRCC cells RC2 (HIF-1α positive), 786–0 (HIF-2α positive) and VHL wild type head & neck cancer cells FaDu (HIF-1α) were utilized. PHD2 and VHL gene specific siRNA knockdown and inhibitors of PHD2 and proteasome were used to determine their role in the degradation of HIF-1α by MSC.
We have demonstrated that ccRCC cells express low incidence of PHD2 (32%), undetectable PHD3, high incidence of HIF-α (92%), and low incidence of VEGF-A compared to head & neck and colon cancers. This laboratory was the first to identify MSC as a highly effective inhibitor of constitutively expressed HIF-α in ccRCC tumors. MSC did not inhibit HIF-1α protein synthesis, but facilitated its degradation. The use of gene knockdown and specific inhibitors confirmed that the inhibition of HIF-1α was PHD2 and proteasome dependent and VHL independent. The effects of MSC treatment on HIF-α were associated with significant antitumor activity against ccRCC xenograft.
Our results show the role of PHD2/3 in stable expression of HIF-α in human ccRCC. Furthermore, HIF-1α degradation by MSC is achieved through PHD2 dependent and VHL independent pathway which is unique for HIF-α regulation. These data provide the basis for combining MSC with currently used agents for ccRCC.
PMCID: PMC3466155  PMID: 22804960
Prolyl hydroxylases; Hypoxia-inducible factor; Clear cell renal cell carcinoma; Selenium

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