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1.  Synthetic peptides define critical contacts between elongin C, elongin B, and the von Hippel-Lindau protein 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;104(11):1583-1591.
The von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) negatively regulates hypoxia-inducible mRNAs such as the mRNA encoding vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). This activity has been linked to its ability to form multimeric complexes that contain elongin C, elongin B, and Cul2. To understand this process in greater detail, we performed a series of in vitro binding assays using pVHL, elongin B, and elongin C variants as well as synthetic peptide competitors derived from pVHL or elongin C. A subdomain of elongin C (residues 17–50) was necessary and sufficient for detectable binding to elongin B. In contrast, elongin B residues required for binding to elongin C were not confined to a discrete colinear domain. We found that the pVHL (residues 157–171) is necessary and sufficient for binding to elongin C in vitro and is frequently mutated in families with VHL disease. These mutations preferentially involve residues that directly bind to elongin C and/or alter the conformation of pVHL such that binding to elongin C is at least partially diminished. These results are consistent with the view that diminished binding of pVHL to the elongins plays a causal role in VHL disease.
J. Clin. Invest. 104:1583–1591 (1999).
PMCID: PMC481054  PMID: 10587522
2.  Diverse Effects of Mutations in Exon II of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) Tumor Suppressor Gene on the Interaction of pVHL with the Cytosolic Chaperonin and pVHL-Dependent Ubiquitin Ligase Activity 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(6):1947-1960.
We examined the biogenesis of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) in vitro and in vivo. pVHL formed a complex with the cytosolic chaperonin containing TCP-1 (CCT or TRiC) en route to assembly with elongin B/C and the subsequent formation of the VCB-Cul2 ubiquitin ligase. Blocking the interaction of pVHL with elongin B/C resulted in accumulation of pVHL within the CCT complex. pVHL present in purified VHL-CCT complexes, when added to rabbit reticulocyte lysate, proceeded to form VCB and VCB-Cul2. Thus, CCT likely functions, at least in part, by retaining VHL chains pending the availability of elongin B/C for final folding and/or assembly. Tumor-associated mutations within exon II of the VHL syndrome had diverse effects upon the stability and/or function of pVHL-containing complexes. First, a pVHL mutant lacking the entire region encoded by exon II did not bind to CCT and yet could still assemble into complexes with elongin B/C and elongin B/C-Cul2. Second, a number of tumor-derived missense mutations in exon II did not decrease CCT binding, and most had no detectable effect upon VCB-Cul2 assembly. Many exon II mutants, however, were found to be defective in the binding to and subsequent ubiquitination of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α), a substrate of the VCB-Cul2 ubiquitin ligase. We conclude that the selection pressure to mutate VHL exon II during tumorigenesis does not relate to loss of CCT binding but may reflect quantitative or qualitative defects in HIF binding and/or in pVHL-dependent ubiquitin ligase activity.
PMCID: PMC135590  PMID: 11865071
3.  A yeast two-hybrid system reconstituting substrate recognition of the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;35(21):e142.
The von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) is inactivated in the hereditary cancer syndrome von Hippel-Lindau disease and in the majority of sporadic renal carcinomas. pVHL is the substrate-binding subunit of the CBCVHL ubiquitin ligase complex that negatively regulates cell growth by promoting the degradation of hypoxia-inducible transcription factor subunits (HIF1/2α). Proteomics-based identification of novel pVHL substrates is hampered by their short half-life and low abundancy in mammalian cells. The usefulness of yeast two-hybrid (Y2H) approaches, on the other hand, has been limited by the failure of pVHL to adopt its native structure and by the absence of prolylhydroxylase activity critical for pVHL substrate recognition. Therefore, we modified the Y2H system to faithfully reconstitute the physical interaction between pVHL and its substrates. Our approach relies on the coexpression of pVHL with the cofactors Elongin B and Elongin C and with HIF1/2α prolylhydroxylases. In a proof-of-principle Y2H screen, we identified the known substrates HIF1/2α and new candidate substrates including diacylglycerol kinase iota, demonstrating that our strategy allows detection of stable interactions between pVHL and otherwise elusive cellular targets. Additional future applications may include structure/function analyses of pVHL-HIF1/2α binding and screens for therapeutically relevant compounds that either stabilize or disrupt this interaction.
PMCID: PMC2175351  PMID: 17986458
4.  Hypoxia and cell cycle regulation of the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor 
Oncogene  2010;30(1):21-31.
Inactivation of von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) is associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease, an inherited cancer syndrome, as well as the majority of patients with sporadic clear cell renal carcinoma (RCC). While the involvement of pVHL in oxygen sensing through targeting HIFα subunits to ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis has been well documented, less is known about pVHL regulation under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions. We found that pVHL levels decreased in hypoxia and that hypoxia-induced cell cycle arrest is associated with pVHL expression in RCC cells. pVHL levels fluctuate during the cell cycle, paralleling cyclin B1 levels, with decreased levels in mitosis and G1. pVHL contains consensus Destruction box sequences, and pVHL associates with Cdh1, an activator of the anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) E3 ubiquitin ligase. We show that pVHL has a decreased half-life in G1, Cdh1 downregulation results in increased pVHL expression, while Cdh1 overexpression results in decreased pVHL expression. Taken together these results suggest that pVHL is a novel substrate of APC/CCdh1. Destruction box-independent pVHL degradation was also detected, indicating that other ubiquitin ligases are also activated for pVHL degradation.
PMCID: PMC2995849  PMID: 20802534
Von Hippel-Lindau protein; renal cell carcinoma; anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome; hypoxia; cell cycle
5.  Association of the von Hippel-Lindau protein with AUF1 and post-transcriptional regulation of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A mRNA 
Molecular Cancer Research  2011;10(1):108-120.
The von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene product is the recognition component of an E3 ubiquitin ligase and is inactivated in patients with VHL disease and in most sporadic clear cell renal carcinomas (RCC). pVHL controls oxygen-responsive gene expression at the transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. The vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) mRNA contains AU-rich elements (AREs) in the 3' untranslated region, and mRNA stability or decay is determined through ARE-associated RNA binding factors. We show here that levels of the ARE binding factor, AUF1, are regulated by pVHL and by hypoxia. pVHL and AUF1 stably associate with each other in cells and AUF1 is a ubiquitylation target of pVHL. AUF1 and another RNA binding protein, HuR, bind to VEGFA ARE RNA. Ribonucleoprotein (RNP)-immunoprecipitations showed that pVHL associates indirectly with VEGFA mRNA through AUF1 and/or HuR, and this complex is associated with VEGFA mRNA decay under normoxic conditions. Under hypoxic conditions pVHL is downregulated, while AUF1 and HuR binding to VEGF mRNA is maintained, and this complex is associated with stabilized mRNA. These studies suggest that AUF1 and HuR bind to VEGFA ARE RNA under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions, and that a pVHL-RNP complex determines VEGFA mRNA decay. These studies further implicate the ubiquitin-proteasome system in ARE-mediated RNA degradation.
PMCID: PMC3262120  PMID: 22086907
von Hippel-Lindau; hypoxia; VEGF; AUF1; HuR; hnRNP
6.  STAT3 inhibits the degradation of HIF-1α by pVHL-mediated ubiquitination 
Experimental & Molecular Medicine  2008;40(5):479-485.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) is rapidly degraded by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway under normoxic conditions. Ubiquitination of HIF-1α is mediated by interaction with von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL). In our previous report, we found that hypoxia-induced active signal transducer and activator of transcription3 (STAT3) accelerated the accumulation of HIF-1α protein and prolonged its half-life in solid tumor cells. However, its specific mechanisms are not fully understood. Thus, we examined the role of STAT3 in the mechanism of pVHL-mediated HIF-1α stability. We found that STAT3 interacts with C-terminal domain of HIF-1α and stabilizes HIF-1α by inhibition of pVHL binding to HIF-1α. The binding between HIF-1α and pVHL, negative regulator of HIF-1α stability, was interfered dose-dependently by overexpressed constitutive active STAT3. Moreover, we found that the enhanced HIF-1α protein levels by active STAT3 are due to decrease of poly-ubiquitination of HIF-1α protein via inhibition of interaction between pVHL and HIF-1α. Taken together, our results suggest that STAT3 decreases the pVHL-mediated ubiquitination of HIF-1α through competition with pVHL for binding to HIF-1α, and then stabilizes HIF-1α protein levels.
PMCID: PMC2679355  PMID: 18985005
anoxia; hypoxia-inducible factor1, α subunit; neoplasms; STAT3 transcription factor; ubiquitination; von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein
7.  Hepatocyte growth factor-stimulated renal tubular mitogenesis: effects on expression of c-myc, c-fos, c-met, VEGF and the VHL tumour-suppressor and related genes. 
British Journal of Cancer  1998;77(9):1420-1428.
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF/SF) is a potent renal proximal tubular cell (PTEC) mitogen involved in renal development. HGF/SF is the functional ligand for the c-met proto-oncogene, and germline c-met mutations are associated with familial papillary renal cell carcinoma. Somatic von Hippel-Lindau disease tumour-suppressor gene (VHL) mutations are frequently detected in sporadic clear cell renal cell carcinomas (RCC), and germline VHL mutations are the commonest cause of familial clear cell RCC. pVHL binds to the positive regulatory components of the trimeric elongin (SIII) complex (elongins B and C) and has been observed to deregulate expression of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene. HGF/SF has similarly been reported to up-regulate expression of the VEGF gene in non-renal experimental systems. To investigate the mechanism of HGF/SF action in PTECs and, specifically, to examine potential interactions between the HGF/c-met and the VHL-mediated pathways for renal tubular growth control, we have isolated untransformed PTECs from normal kidneys, developed conditions for their culture in vitro and used these cells to investigate changes in mRNA levels of the VHL, elongin A, B and C, VEGF, c-myc, c-fos and c-met genes after HGF/SF exposure. Significant elevations in the mRNA levels of VEGF, c-myc, c-fos, c-met and elongins A, B and C, but not VHL, were detected after HGF/SF stimulation of human PTECs (P < 0.02), with a consistent order of peak levels observed over successive replicates (c-fos at 1 h, VEGF at 2-4 h, c-myc, at 4 h, followed by c-met and all three elongin subunits at 8 h). This study highlights the spectrum of changes in gene expression observed in PTECs after HGF/SF stimulation and has identified possible candidate mediators of the HGF/SF-induced mitogenic response. Our evidence would suggest that the changes in PTEC VEGF expression induced by HGF/SF are mediated by a VHL-independent pathway.
PMCID: PMC2150185  PMID: 9652757
8.  EC5S Ubiquitin Complex Is Recruited by KSHV Latent Antigen LANA for Degradation of the VHL and p53 Tumor Suppressors 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(10):e116.
Cellular protein degradation pathways can be utilized by viruses to establish an environment that favors their propagation. Here we report that the Kaposi's sarcoma–associated herpesvirus (KSHV)-encoded latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) directly functions as a component of the EC5S ubiquitin complex targeting the tumor suppressors von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) and p53 for degradation. We have characterized a suppressor of cytokine signaling box-like motif within LANA composed of an Elongin B and C box and a Cullin box, which is spatially located at its amino and carboxyl termini. This motif is necessary for LANA interaction with the Cul5–Elongin BC complex, to promote polyubiquitylation of cellular substrates VHL and p53 in vitro via its amino- and carboxyl-terminal binding domain, respectively. In transfected cells as well as KSHV-infected B lymphoma cells, LANA expression stimulates degradation of VHL and p53. Additionally, specific RNA interference–mediated LANA knockdown stabilized VHL and p53 in primary effusion lymphoma cells. Thus, manipulation of tumor suppressors by LANA potentially provides a favorable environment for progression of KSHV-infected tumor cells.
Ubiquitin is a small 8.5-kDa polypeptide with 76 amino acids which is highly conserved in eukaryotes. Cellular proteins destined for degradation are covalently linked to ubiquitin by a process called ubiquitylation. This highly regulated process controls a broad range of fundamental cellular functions, including signal transduction, development, and apoptosis. Many pathogens invade host cells by mimicking, blocking, or redirecting the activity of the cellular ubiquitin system. Understanding the unique biological functions targeted by these pathogens is a key goal in developing strategies for prevention and protection against their invasions. This report describes a unique functional role of the latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) encoded by Kaposi's sarcoma–associated herpesvirus, a large DNA virus that persists in primary effusion lymphoma and multicentric Castleman's disease. LANA can modulate hypoxia-inducible factor 1α activities by down-regulation of the critical tumor suppressors von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) and p53 in B lymphoma cells. In this pathway, LANA directly mimics and serves as an adaptor molecule for a specific E3 ubiquitin complex through an unconventional protein motif, to stimulate the ubiquitylation and degradation of both VHL and p53. This is of fundamental importance because it raises the interesting question as to whether this process is linked to regulation of infection and pathogenesis by tumor viruses associated with human cancers.
PMCID: PMC1626105  PMID: 17069461
9.  Influence of the RNA-Binding Protein HuR in pVHL-Regulated p53 Expression in Renal Carcinoma Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(20):7083-7095.
A recent analysis of gene expression in renal cell carcinoma cells led to the identification of mRNAs whose translation was dependent on the presence of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene product, pVHL. Here, we investigate the finding that pVHL-expressing RCC cells (VHL+) exhibited elevated levels of polysome-associated p53 mRNA and increased p53 protein levels compared with VHL-defective (VHL−) cells. Our findings indicate that p53 translation is specifically heightened in VHL+ cells, given that (i) p53 mRNA abundance in VHL+ and VHL− cells was comparable, (ii) p53 degradation did not significantly influence p53 expression, and (iii) p53 synthesis was markedly induced in VHL+ cells. Electrophoretic mobility shift and immunoprecipitation assays to detect endogenous and radiolabeled p53 transcripts revealed that the RNA-binding protein HuR, previously shown to regulate mRNA turnover and translation, was capable of binding to the 3′ untranslated region of the p53 mRNA in a VHL-dependent fashion. Interestingly, while whole-cell levels of HuR in VHL+ and VHL− cells were comparable, HuR was markedly more abundant in the cytoplasmic and polysome-associated fractions of VHL+ cells. In keeping with earlier reports, the elevated cytoplasmic HuR in VHL+ cells was likely due to the reduced AMP-activated kinase activity in these cells. Demonstration that HuR indeed contributed to the increased expression of p53 in VHL+ cells was obtained through use of RNA interference, which effectively reduced HuR expression and in turn caused marked decreases in p53 translation and p53 abundance. Taken together, our findings support a role for pVHL in elevating p53 expression, implicate HuR in enhancing VHL-mediated p53 translation, and suggest that VHL-mediated p53 upregulation may contribute to pVHL's tumor suppressive functions in renal cell carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC230328  PMID: 14517280
10.  Playing Tag with HIF: The VHL Story 
Inactivation of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumour suppressor gene product pVHL is the cause of inherited VHL disease and is associated with sporadic kidney cancer. pVHL is found in a multiprotein complex with elongins B/C, Cul2, and Rbx1 forming an E3 ubiquitin ligase complex called VEC. This modular enzyme targets the α subunits of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) for ubiquitin-mediated destruction. Consequently, tumour cells lacking functional pVHL overproduce the products of HIF-target genes such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which promotes angiogenesis. This likely accounts for the hypervascular nature of VHL-associated neoplasms. Although pVHL has been linked to the cell-cycle, differentiation, and the regulation of extracellular matrix assembly, microenvironment pH, and tissue invasiveness, this review will focus on the recent insights into the molecular mechanisms governing the E3 ubiquitin ligase function of VEC.
PMCID: PMC161365  PMID: 12488577
11.  Microtubular Stability Affects pVHL-Mediated Regulation of HIF-1alpha via the p38/MAPK Pathway in Hypoxic Cardiomyocytes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35017.
Our previous research found that structural changes of the microtubule network influence glycolysis in cardiomyocytes by regulating the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α during the early stages of hypoxia. However, little is known about the underlying regulatory mechanism of the changes of HIF-1α caused by microtubule network alternation. The von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL), as a ubiquitin ligase, is best understood as a negative regulator of HIF-1α.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In primary rat cardiomyocytes and H9c2 cardiac cells, microtubule-stabilization was achieved by pretreating with paclitaxel or transfection of microtubule-associated protein 4 (MAP4) overexpression plasmids and microtubule–depolymerization was achieved by pretreating with colchicine or transfection of MAP4 siRNA before hypoxia treatment. Recombinant adenovirus vectors for overexpressing pVHL or silencing of pVHL expression were constructed and transfected in primary rat cardiomyocytes and H9c2 cells. With different microtubule-stabilizing and -depolymerizing treaments, we demonstrated that the protein levels of HIF-1α were down-regulated through overexpression of pVHL and were up-regulated through knockdown of pVHL in hypoxic cardiomyocytes. Importantly, microtubular structure breakdown activated p38/MAPK pathway, accompanied with the upregulation of pVHL. In coincidence, we found that SB203580, a p38/MAPK inhibitor decreased pVHL while MKK6 (Glu) overexpression increased pVHL in the microtubule network altered-hypoxic cardiomyocytes and H9c2 cells.
This study suggests that pVHL plays an important role in the regulation of HIF-1α caused by the changes of microtubular structure and the p38/MAPK pathway participates in the process of pVHL change following microtubule network alteration in hypoxic cardiomyocytes.
PMCID: PMC3323643  PMID: 22506063
12.  Inhibition of HIF2α Is Sufficient to Suppress pVHL-Defective Tumor Growth 
PLoS Biology  2003;1(3):e83.
Biallelic inactivation of the von Hippel–Lindau tumor suppressor gene (VHL) is linked to the development of hereditary (VHL-associated) and sporadic clear-cell renal carcinomas as well as other abnormalities. The VHL gene product, pVHL, is part of an E3 ubiquitin ligase complex that targets the α subunits of the heterodimeric transcription factor HIF (hypoxia-inducible factor) for degradation in the presence of oxygen. Here we report that a HIF2α variant lacking both of its two prolyl hydroxylation/pVHL-binding sites prevents tumor inhibition by pVHL in a DNA-binding dependent manner. Conversely, downregulation of HIF2α with short hairpin RNAs is sufficient to suppress tumor formation by pVHL-defective renal carcinoma cells. These results establish that tumor suppression by pVHL is linked to regulation of HIF target genes.
Specific downregulation of the transcription factor HIF2α is sufficient to suppress tumor formation by cells lacking the functional tumor suppressor (pVHL), demonstrating that tumor suppression by pVHL is linked to regulation of HIF target genes
PMCID: PMC300692  PMID: 14691554
13.  pVHL Mediates K63-Linked Ubiquitination of nCLU 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35848.
pVHL, product of von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene, functions as the substrate recognition component of an E3-ubiquitin ligase that targets proteins for ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Hypoxia-inducible factor α (HIFα) is the well-known substrate of pVHL. Besides HIFα, pVHL also binds to many other proteins and has multiple functions. In this manuscript, we report that the nuclear clusterin (nCLU) is a target of pVHL. We found that pVHL had a direct interaction with nCLU. nCLU bound to pVHL at pVHL's β domain, the site for recognition of substrate, indicating that nCLU might be a substrate of pVHL. Interestingly, pVHL bound to nCLU but did not lead to nCLU destruction. Further studies indicated that pVHL mediated K63-linked ubiquitination of nCLU and promoted nCLU nuclear translocation. In summary, our results disclose a novel function of pVHL that mediates K63-linked ubiquitination and identify nCLU as a new target of pVHL.
PMCID: PMC3332038  PMID: 22532874
14.  Multiple Components of the VHL Tumor Suppressor Complex Are Frequently Affected by DNA Copy Number Loss in Pheochromocytoma 
Pheochromocytomas (PCC) are rare tumors that arise in chromaffin tissue of the adrenal gland. PCC are frequently inherited through predisposing mutations in genes such as the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor. VHL is part of the VHL elongin BC protein complex that also includes CUL2/5, TCEB1, TCEB2, and RBX1; in normoxic conditions this complex targets hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF1A) for degradation, thus preventing a hypoxic response. VHL inactivation by genetic mechanisms, such as mutation and loss of heterozygosity, inhibits HIF1A degradation, even in the presence of oxygen, and induces a pseudohypoxic response. However, the described <10% VHL mutation rate cannot account for the high frequency of hypoxic response observed. Indeed, little is known about genetic mechanisms disrupting other complex component genes. Here, we show that, in a panel of 171 PCC tumors, 59.6% harbored gene copy number loss (CNL) of at least one complex component. CNL significantly reduced gene expression and was associated with enrichment of gene targets controlled by HIF1. Interestingly, we show that VHL-related renal clear cell carcinoma harbored disruption of VHL alone. Our results indicate that VHL elongin BC protein complex components other than VHL could be important for PCC tumorigenesis and merit further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4178909  PMID: 25298778
15.  HIF-2α downregulation in the absence of functional VHL is not sufficient for renal cell differentiation 
Mutational inactivation of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene has been linked to hereditary as well as sporadic clear cell renal carcinomas. The product of the VHL gene, pVHL, acts to target hypoxia-inducible factor alpha (HIF-α) subunits for ubiquitination and subsequent degradation. Using an RNA interference approach to lower levels of HIF-2α in two different renal cell lines that lack functional pVHL, we have tested the contribution of HIF-2α toward cellular pVHL activities.
Knockdown of HIF-2α resulted in cell cycle arrest of renal cells that were grown on collagen I, indicating that this pVHL function is dependent on HIF-2α regulation. However, cellular morphological changes and downregulation of integrins α5 and β1, which were seen upon pVHL replacement, were not faithfully phenocopied by HIF-2α reduction. Moreover, fibronectin deposition and expression of renal cell differentiation markers were observed in cells containing replaced pVHL, but not in HIF-2α knockdown cells, indicating that these pVHL functions may occur independently of HIF-2α downregulation.
These results indicate that HIF-2α regulation is not sufficient for pVHL-induced renal cell differentiation. We hypothesize that in addition to HIF-2α dysregulation, abrogation of additional pVHL functions is required for the initiation of renal carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC1919349  PMID: 17598890
16.  The von Hippel-Lindau protein sensitizes renal carcinoma cells to apoptotic stimuli through stabilization of BIMEL 
Oncogene  2009;28(16):1864-1874.
von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease is caused by germ-line mutations in the VHL tumor suppressor gene and is the most common cause of inherited renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Mutations in the VHL gene also occur in a large majority of sporadic cases of clear-cell RCC, which have high intrinsic resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Here we show that VHL-deficient RCC cells express lower levels of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein BIMEL and are more resistant to etoposide and UV radiation induced death compared to the same cells stably expressing the wild type VHL protein (pVHL). Re-introducing pVHL into VHL-null cells increased the half-life of BIMEL protein without affecting its mRNA expression, and over-expressing pVHL inhibited BIMEL polyubiquitination. Suppressing pVHL expression with RNA interference resulted in a decrease in BIMEL protein and a corresponding decrease in the sensitivity of RCC cells to apoptotic stimuli. Directly inhibiting BIMEL expression in pVHL-expressing RCC cells caused a similar decrease in cell death. These results demonstrate that pVHL acts to promote BIMEL protein stability in RCC cells, and that destabilization of BIMEL in the absence of pVHL contributes to the increased resistance of VHL-null RCC cells to certain apoptotic stimuli.
PMCID: PMC2701369  PMID: 19305426
VHL; BIMEL; renal cell carcinoma; apoptosis; protein stability
17.  Estrogen receptor α is a novel target of the Von Hippel-Lindau protein and is responsible for the proliferation of VHL-deficient cells under hypoxic conditions 
Cell Cycle  2012;11(23):4462-4473.
The Von Hippel-Lindau gene (VHL) is frequently deleted or mutated in human renal cell carcinoma (RCC) at the early stage. According to the well-established theory, pVHL acts as a tumor suppressor through its E3 ligase activity, which targets hypoxia-inducing factor-1α (HIF-1α). However, the elevated expression of HIF-1α did not promote cell proliferation, indicating that there would be another target, which could promote cell proliferation at the early cancer stage of RCC. In this study, we show that estrogen receptor-α (ER-α) is a novel proteasomal degradation target of the pVHL E3 ligase. Indeed, the overexpression of VHL suppresses exo- and endogenous ER-α expression, whereas si-pVHL can increase ER-α expression. The negative regulation of pVHL on ER-α expression is achieved by its E3 ligase activity. Thus, pVHL can promote the ER-α ubiquitinylation. In addition, we revealed that ER-α and HIF-1α are competitive substrates of pVHL. Thus, under normal conditions, ER-α overexpression can increase the transcription factor activity of HIF-1α. Under the hypoxic condition, where HIF-1α is not a suitable target of pVHL, ER-α is more rapidly degraded by pVHL. However, in VHL-deficient cells, the expression of ER-α and HIF-1α is retained, so that the hypoxic condition did not suppress cell proliferation obviously compared with cells that are expressing pVHL. Thus, blocking of ER-α using its inhibitor could suppress the proliferation of VHL-deficient cells as effectively as hypoxia-induced growth suppression. Considering our results, blocking of ER-α signaling in VHL-deficient cancer cells would be beneficial for cancer suppression. Indeed, we showed the anti-proliferative effect of Faslodex in VHL-deficient cells.
PMCID: PMC3552928  PMID: 23159849
RCC; VHL; ER-alpha; hypoxia; cell proliferation
18.  VHL Type 2B Mutations Retain VBC Complex Form and Function 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(11):e3801.
von Hippel-Lindau disease is characterized by a spectrum of hypervascular tumors, including renal cell carcinoma, hemangioblastoma, and pheochromocytoma, which occur with VHL genotype-specific differences in penetrance. VHL loss causes a failure to regulate the hypoxia inducible factors (HIF-1α and HIF-2α), resulting in accumulation of both factors to high levels. Although HIF dysregulation is critical to VHL disease-associated renal tumorigenesis, increasing evidence points toward gradations of HIF dysregulation contributing to the degree of predisposition to renal cell carcinoma and other manifestations of the disease.
Methodology/Principal Findings
This investigation examined the ability of disease-specific VHL missense mutations to support the assembly of the VBC complex and to promote the ubiquitylation of HIF. Our interaction analysis supported previous observations that VHL Type 2B mutations disrupt the interaction between pVHL and Elongin C but maintain partial regulation of HIF. We additionally demonstrated that Type 2B mutant pVHL forms a remnant VBC complex containing the active members ROC1 and Cullin-2 which retains the ability to ubiquitylate HIF-1α.
Our results suggest that subtypes of VHL mutations support an intermediate level of HIF regulation via a remnant VBC complex. These findings provide a mechanism for the graded HIF dysregulation and genetic predisposition for cancer development in VHL disease.
PMCID: PMC2583047  PMID: 19030229
19.  Proteostasis modulators prolong missense VHL protein activity and halt tumor progression 
Cell reports  2013;3(1):52-59.
While missense mutations of von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) gene are the most common germline mutation underlying this heritable cancer syndrome, the mechanism of tumorigenesis is unknown. We found a quantitative reduction of missense mutant VHL protein (pVHL) in VHL-associated tumors associated with physiologic mRNA expression. While mutant pVHL is unstable and degraded contemporarily with translation, it retains its E3 ligase function, including hypoxia inducible factor degradation. The premature pVHL degradation is due to misfolding and imbalance of chaperonin binding. Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACis) can modulate this pathway by inhibiting the HDAC6-Hsp90 chaperone axis, stabilizing pVHL and restoring activity comparable to wild type protein in vitro and in animal models (786-O tumor xenografts). HDACi mediated stabilization of missense pVHL significantly attenuates the growth of 786-O rodent tumor model. These findings provide direct biologic insight into VHL-associated tumors and elucidate a new treatment paradigm for VHL.
PMCID: PMC3563731  PMID: 23318261
20.  pVHL Modification by NEDD8 Is Required for Fibronectin Matrix Assembly and Suppression of Tumor Development 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(8):3251-3261.
Functional inactivation of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene is the cause of the familial VHL disease and most sporadic renal clear-cell carcinomas (RCC). pVHL has been shown to play a role in the destruction of hypoxia-inducible factor α (HIF-α) subunits via ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis and in the regulation of fibronectin matrix assembly. Although most disease-causing pVHL mutations hinder the regulation of the HIF pathway, every disease-causing pVHL mutant tested to date has failed to promote the assembly of the fibronectin matrix, underscoring its potential importance in VHL disease. Here, we report that a ubiquitin-like molecule called NEDD8 covalently modifies pVHL. A nonneddylateable pVHL mutant, while retaining its ability to ubiquitylate HIF, failed to bind to and promote the assembly of the fibronectin matrix. Expression of the neddylation-defective pVHL in RCC cells, while restoring the regulation of HIF, failed to promote the differentiated morphology in a three-dimensional growth assay and was insufficient to suppress the formation of tumors in SCID mice. These results suggest that NEDD8 modification of pVHL plays an important role in fibronectin matrix assembly and that in the absence of such regulation, an intact HIF pathway is insufficient to prevent VHL-associated tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC381603  PMID: 15060148
21.  von Hippel-Lindau Protein-Mediated Repression of Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Translation Revealed through Use of cDNA Arrays 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(7):2316-2328.
Based on evidence that the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor protein is associated with polysomes and interacts with translation regulatory factors, we set out to investigate the potential influence of pVHL on protein translation. To this end, renal cell carcinoma (RCC) cells that either lacked pVHL or expressed pVHL through stable transfection were used to prepare RNA from cytosolic (unbound) and polysome-bound fractions. Hybridization of cDNA arrays using RNA from each fraction revealed a subset of transcripts whose abundance in polysomes decreased when pVHL function was restored. The tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) mRNA was identified as one of the transcripts that preferentially associated with polysomes in pVHL-deficient cells. Additional evidence that the TNF-α mRNA was a target of translational repression by pVHL was obtained from reporter gene assays, which further revealed that pVHL's inhibitory influence on protein synthesis occurred through the TNF-α 3′-untranslated region. Our findings uncover a novel function for the pVHL tumor suppressor protein as regulator of protein translation.
PMCID: PMC150743  PMID: 12640117
22.  Interaction of HIF-1α and Notch3 Is Required for the Expression of Carbonic Anhydrase 9 in Breast Carcinoma Cells 
Genes & Cancer  2013;4(11-12):513-523.
Expression of carbonic anhydrase 9 (CA9) is associated with poor prognosis and increased tumor aggressiveness and does not always correlate with HIF-1α expression. Presently, we analyzed the regulation of CA9 expression during hypoxia by HIF-1α, Notch3, and the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) in breast carcinoma cells. Both HIF-1α and Notch3 were absolutely required for the expression of CA9 mRNA, protein, and reporter. Reciprocal co-immunoprecipitation of HIF-1α, Notch3 intracellular domain (NICD3), and pVHL demonstrated their association. The presence of common consensus prolyl hydroxylation and pVHL binding motifs (L(XY)LAP);LLPLAP2191 suggested an oxygen-dependent regulation for NICD3. However, unlike the HIF-1α protein, NICD3 protein levels were not modulated with hypoxia or hypoxia-mimetic agents. Surprisingly, mutations of the common prolyl hydroxylation and pVHL binding domain lead to the loss of CA9 mRNA, protein, and reporter activity. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assay demonstrated the association of NICD3, HIF-1α, and pVHL at the CA9 promoter. Further, the NICD3 mutant defective in prolyl hydroxylation and subsequent pVHL binding caused a reduction in cell proliferation of breast carcinoma cells. We show here for the first time that the interaction of HIF-1α with NICD3 is important for the regulation of CA9 expression. These findings suggest that although CA9 is a hypoxia-responsive gene, its expression is modulated by the interaction of HIF-1α, Notch3, and VHL proteins. Targeting the expression of CA9 by targeting upstream regulators could be useful in cancer/stem cell therapy.
PMCID: PMC3877659  PMID: 24386511
hypoxia; Notch3; CA9; PBX1; VHL
23.  Proteomic dissection of the VHL interactome 
Journal of proteome research  2011;10(11):5175-5182.
The von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene encodes a component of a ubiquitin ligase complex containing elongin B, elongin C, cullin 2, and Rbx1, which acts as a negative regulator of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF). VHL ubiquitinates and degrades the alpha subunits of HIF and this is proposed to suppress tumorigenesis and tumor angiogenesis. Several lines of evidence also suggest important roles for HIF-independent VHL functions in maintenance of primary cilium, extracellular matrix formation, and tumor suppression.
We undertook a series of proteomic analyses to gain a comprehensive picture of the VHL-interacting proteins. We found that the ARF tumor suppressor interacts with VHL30, a longer VHL isoform, but not with VHL19, a shorter VHL isoform. ARF was found to release VHL30 from the E3 ligase complex, promoting the binding of VHL30 to a protein arginine methyltransferase, PRMT3. Our analysis of the VHL19 interactome also uncovered that VHL19 displays affinity to collagens and their biosynthesis enzymes.
PMCID: PMC3208728  PMID: 21942715
von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor; ARF; PRMT3; p53; interactome; proteomics
24.  The von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein and Egl-9-Type Proline Hydroxylases Regulate the Large Subunit of RNA Polymerase II in Response to Oxidative Stress▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(8):2701-2717.
Human renal clear cell carcinoma (RCC) is frequently associated with loss of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor (pVHL), which inhibits ubiquitylation and degradation of the alpha subunits of hypoxia-inducible transcription factor. pVHL also ubiquitylates the large subunit of RNA polymerase II, Rpb1, phosphorylated on serine 5 (Ser5) within the C-terminal domain (CTD). A hydroxylated proline 1465 within an LXXLAP motif located N-terminal to the CTD allows the interaction of Rpb1 with pVHL. Here we report that in RCC cells, pVHL regulates expression of Rpb1 and is necessary for low-grade oxidative-stress-induced recruitment of Rpb1 to the DNA-engaged fraction and for its P1465 hydroxylation, phosphorylation, and nondegradative ubiquitylation. Egln-9-type prolyl hydroxylases, PHD1 and PHD2, coimmunoprecipitated with Rpb1 in the chromatin fraction of VHL+ RCC cells in response to oxidative stress, and PHD1 was necessary for P1465 hydroxylation while PHD2 had an inhibitory effect. P1465 hydroxylation was required for oxidative-stress-induced Ser5 phosphorylation of Rpb1. Importantly, overexpression of wild-type Rpb1 stimulated formation of kidney tumors by VHL+ cells, and this effect was abolished by P1465A mutation of Rpb1. These data indicate that through this novel pathway involving P1465 hydroxylation and Ser5 phosphorylation of Rbp1, pVHL may regulate tumor growth.
PMCID: PMC2293119  PMID: 18285459
25.  Decreased Growth of Vhl−/− Fibrosarcomas Is Associated with Elevated Levels of Cyclin Kinase Inhibitors p21 and p27 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(11):4565-4578.
Inactivating mutations within the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene predispose patients to develop a variety of highly vascularized tumors. pVHL targets α subunits of the heterodimeric transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), a critical regulator of energy metabolism, angiogenesis, hematopoiesis, and oxygen (O2) delivery, for ubiquitin-mediated degradation in an O2-dependent manner. To investigate the role of Vhl in cellular proliferation and tumorigenesis, we utilized mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), a common tool for analyzing cell cycle regulation, and generated Vhl−/− MEF-derived fibrosarcomas. Surprisingly, growth of both Vhl−/− MEFs and fibrosarcomas was impaired, although tumor vascularity was increased. Decreased proliferation of Vhl−/− MEFs was correlated with an overexpression of cyclin kinase inhibitors (CKIs) p21 and p27. The transcription of p21 and p27 is inhibited by c-Myc; therefore, the induction of CKIs was attributed to the ability of HIF to antagonize c-Myc activity. Indeed, p21 mRNA levels were elevated under normoxia in Vhl−/− MEFs, while c-Myc transcriptional activity was markedly reduced. Gene silencing of HIF-1α by small interfering RNA reduced p21 and p27 protein and mRNA levels in Vhl−/− MEFs. The induction of p21 and p27, mediated by constitutive activation of the HIF pathway, provides a mechanism for the decreased proliferation rates of Vhl−/− MEFs and fibrosarcomas. These results demonstrate that a loss of pVHL can induce growth arrest in certain cells types, which suggests that additional genetic mutations are necessary for VHL-associated tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC1140627  PMID: 15899860

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