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      Role of hypoxia in cancer therapy by regulating the tumor microenvironment

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          Clinical resistance is a complex phenomenon in major human cancers involving multifactorial mechanisms, and hypoxia is one of the key components that affect the cellular expression program and lead to therapy resistance. The present study aimed to summarize the role of hypoxia in cancer therapy by regulating the tumor microenvironment (TME) and to highlight the potential of hypoxia-targeted therapy.


          Relevant published studies were retrieved from PubMed, Web of Science, and Embase using keywords such as hypoxia, cancer therapy, resistance, TME, cancer, apoptosis, DNA damage, autophagy, p53, and other similar terms.


          Recent studies have shown that hypoxia is associated with poor prognosis in patients by regulating the TME. It confers resistance to conventional therapies through a number of signaling pathways in apoptosis, autophagy, DNA damage, mitochondrial activity, p53, and drug efflux.


          Hypoxia targeting might be relevant to overcome hypoxia-associated resistance in cancer treatment.

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          Defining the role of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 in cancer biology and therapeutics.

           G Semenza (2010)
          Adaptation of cancer cells to their microenvironment is an important driving force in the clonal selection that leads to invasive and metastatic disease. O2 concentrations are markedly reduced in many human cancers compared with normal tissue, and a major mechanism mediating adaptive responses to reduced O2 availability (hypoxia) is the regulation of transcription by hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1). This review summarizes the current state of knowledge regarding the molecular mechanisms by which HIF-1 contributes to cancer progression, focusing on (1) clinical data associating increased HIF-1 levels with patient mortality; (2) preclinical data linking HIF-1 activity with tumor growth; (3) molecular data linking specific HIF-1 target gene products to critical aspects of cancer biology and (4) pharmacological data showing anticancer effects of HIF-1 inhibitors in mouse models of human cancer.
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            PD-L1 is a novel direct target of HIF-1α, and its blockade under hypoxia enhanced MDSC-mediated T cell activation

            Hypoxia is a common feature of solid tumors (Semenza, 2011). Hypoxic zones in tumors attract immunosuppressive cells such as myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs; Corzo et al., 2010), tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs; Doedens et al., 2010; Imtiyaz et al., 2010), and regulatory T cells (T reg cells; Clambey et al., 2012). MDSCs are a heterogeneous group of relatively immature myeloid cells and several studies have described mechanisms of MDSC-mediated immune suppression (Gabrilovich et al., 2012). A large body of preclinical and clinical data indicates that antibody blockade of immune checkpoints can significantly enhance antitumor immunity (Pardoll, 2012; West et al., 2013). Recently, antibody-mediated blockade of preprogrammed death 1 (PD-1; Topalian et al., 2012) and its ligand, PD-L1 (Brahmer et al., 2012), was shown to result in durable tumor regression and prolonged stabilization of disease in patients with advanced cancers. PD-1, a cell surface glycoprotein with a structure similar to cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4), belongs to the B7 family of co-stimulatory/co-inhibitory molecules and plays a key part in immune regulation (Greenwald et al., 2005). PD-1 has two known ligands, PD-L1 (B7-H1) and PD-L2 (B7-DC). Although hypoxia has been shown to regulate the function and differentiation of MDSCs (Corzo et al., 2010), several major questions remain unresolved. The influence of hypoxia on the regulation of immune checkpoint receptors (PD-1 and CTLA-4) and their respective ligands (PD-L1, PD-L2, CD80, and CD86) on MDSCs remains largely obscure. Furthermore, the potential contribution of these immune checkpoint receptors and their respective ligands on MDSC function under hypoxia is still unknown. In the present study, we showed that hypoxia via hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) selectively up-regulated PD-L1 on MDSCs, but not other B7 family members, by binding directly to the HRE in the PD-L1 proximal promoter. Blockade of PD-L1 under hypoxia abrogated MDSC-mediated T cell suppression by modulating MDSCs cytokine production. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION Differential expression of PD-L1 on tumor-infiltrating MDSCs versus splenic MDSCs and selective up-regulation of PD-L1 in splenic MDSCs under hypoxic stress We first compared the level of expression of PD-L1 and PD-L2 between splenic MDSCs and tumor-infiltrating MDSCs from tumor-bearing mice. We found that the percentage of PD-L1+ cells was significantly higher on tumor-infiltrating MDSCs as compared with splenic MDSC in B16-F10, LLC (Fig. 1 A), CT26, and 4T1 (Fig. 1 B) tumor models. No significant difference was found in the percentage of PD-L2+ cells in splenic MDSCs as compared with tumor-infiltrating MDSCs in four tumor models tested (Fig. 1 C). We did not observe any significant difference in the expression levels of other members of the B7 family such as CD80, CD86, PD-1, and CTLA-4 on MDSCs from spleen and tumor (unpublished data). Youn et al. (2008) previously observed no significant differences in the percentage of PD-L1+ or CD80+ cells within the splenic MDSCs from tumor-bearing mice and immature myeloid cells from naive tumor-free mice. However, by comparing the expression of immune checkpoint inhibitors between splenic and tumor-infiltrating MDSCs, we showed that there is a differential expression of PD-L1 on tumor-infiltrating MDSCs. Figure 1. Tumor-infiltrating MDSCs differentially express PD-L1 as compared with splenic MDSCs, and hypoxia selectively up-regulates PD-L1 on splenic MDSCs in tumor-bearing mice. Surface expression level of PD-L1 and PD-L2 on Gr1+ CD11b+ cells (MDSCs) from (B16-F10 and LLC; A; CT26 and 4T1; B) in spleens (black dotted line histogram) and tumor (black line histogram) as compared with isotype control (gray-shaded histogram) was analyzed by flow cytometry. (C) Statistically significant differences (indicated by asterisks) between tumor-infiltrating MDSCs and splenic MDSCs are shown (*, P 20 fold for HRE-4), comparable to their binding to an established HRE in VEGF, LDHA, and Glut1 genes. To determine whether this HIF-1α site (HRE-4) was a transcriptionally active HRE, MSC-1 cells were co-transfected with pGL4-hRluc/SV40 vector and pGL3 EV, pGL3 HRE-4, or pGL3 HRE-4 MUT vectors (Fig. 3 M) and grown under normoxia or hypoxia. After 48 h, firefly and renilla luciferase activities were measured. As shown in Fig. 3 N, hypoxia significantly increased the luciferase activity of HRE-4 reporter by more than threefold as compared with normoxia. More interestingly, the luciferase activity of HRE-4 MUT was significantly decreased (>50%) as compared with HRE-4 under hypoxia (Fig. 3 N). The results presented in Figs. 3 (H–N) demonstrate that PD-L1 is a direct HIF-1α target gene in MSC-1 cells. Thus, we provide evidence here that HIF-1α is a major regulator of PD-L1 mRNA and protein expression, and that HIF-1α regulates the expression of PD-L1 by binding directly to the HRE-4 in the PD-L1 proximal promoter. Blocking PD-L1 decreases MDSC-mediated T cell suppression under hypoxia by down-regulating MDSC IL-6 and IL-10 To directly test the functional consequences of hypoxia-induced up-regulation of PD-L1 in MDSC-mediated T cell suppression, the expression of PD-L1 was blocked on ex vivo MDSCs by using anti–PD-L1 monoclonal antibody. Hypoxia increased the ability of MDSCs to suppress both specific and nonspecific stimuli-mediated T cell proliferation (Fig. 4, A and B). Interestingly, blockade of PD-L1 under hypoxia significantly abrogated the suppressive activity of MDSCs in response to both nonspecific stimuli (anti-CD3/CD28 antibody; Fig. 4 A) and specific stimuli (TRP-2(180–88) peptide; Fig. 4 B). Under hypoxia, MDSCs acquired the ability to inhibit T cell function (Fig. 4, C and D) by decreasing the percentage of IFN-γ+ CD8+ and CD4+ T cells; whereas the percentage of IFN-γ+ CD8+ (Fig. 4 C) and IFN-γ+ CD4+ T cells (Fig. 4 D) significantly increased after PD-L1 blockade under hypoxic conditions. Thus, the immune suppressive function of MDSCs enhanced under hypoxia was abrogated after blocking PD-L1, and hypoxic up-regulation of PD-L1 on MDSCs is involved in mediating the suppressive action of MDSCs, at least in part, as we were not able to completely restore T cell proliferation and function after PD-L1 blockade on MDSCs under hypoxia. Figure 4. Blockade of PD-L1 under hypoxia down-regulates MDSC IL-6 and IL-10 and enhances T cell proliferation and function. MDSCs isolated from spleens of B16-F10 tumor-bearing mice were pretreated for 30 min on ice with 5 µg/ml control antibody (IgG) or antibody against PD-L1 (PDL1 Block) and co-cultured with splenocytes under normoxia and hypoxia for 72 h. (A and B) Effect of MDSC on proliferation of splenocytes stimulated with (A) anti-CD3/CD28 coated beads or (B) TRP-2(180–88) peptide under the indicated conditions. Cell proliferation was measured in triplicates by [3H]thymidine incorporation and expressed as counts per minute (CPM). (C and D) MDSCs were cultured with splenocytes from B16-F10 mice stimulated with anti-CD3/CD28. Intracellular IFN-γ production was evaluated by flow cytometry by gating on (C) CD3+CD8+ IFN-γ+ and (D) CD3+CD4+ IFN-γ+ populations. Statistically significant differences (indicated by asterisks) are shown (**, P 95% as evaluated by FACS analysis. MDSC functional assays. For evaluation of T cell proliferation, splenocytes from B16-F10 mice were plated into U-bottom 96-well plates along with MDSCs at different ratios (50,000 MDSC:200,000 splenocytes/well). Plates were stimulated with either anti-CD3/CD28 beads (Miltenyi Biotec) or TRP-2 180–88 peptide for 72 h at 37°C. Co-cultures were pulsed with thymidine (1 µCi/well; Promega) for 16–18 h before harvesting, and [3H]thymidine uptake was counted using Packard’s TopCount NXT liquid scintillation counter and expressed as counts per minute (CPM). For assessment of T cell functions, MDSCs co-cultured with splenocytes from B16-F10 mice were stimulated with anti-CD3/CD28 beads. After 72 h, intracellular IFN-γ production was evaluated by flow cytometry by gating on CD3+CD8+ IFN-γ+ and CD3+CD4+ IFN-γ+ populations. MDSCs cytokine production (ELISA). MDSCs isolated from spleens of B16-F10 tumor-bearing mice were pretreated for 30 min on ice with 5 μg/ml control antibody (IgG) or Anti-Mouse PD-L1 (B7-H1) Functional Grade Purified antibody 5 µg/ml (clone MIH5; eBioscience; PDL1 Block) and cultured under normoxia and hypoxia for 72 h. Supernatants were collected and the secretion of IL-6, IL-10, and IL-12p70 (eBioscience) was determined by ELISA. ChIP assay. ChIP was performed with lysates prepared from MSC-1 by using SimpleChIP Enzymatic Chromatin IP kit (Cell Signaling Technology). SYBR Green RT-qPCR was performed using the primers detailed in Table S1. Arginase enzymatic activity and NO (nitric oxide) production. Arginase activity was measured in MDSC cell lysates, and for NO production, culture supernatants were mixed with Greiss reagent and nitrite concentrations were determined as described earlier (Youn et al., 2008). Luciferase reporter assay. A 653-bp section corresponding to mouse PD-L1 promoter containing HRE4 sequence was inserted into the NheI–XhoI sites of pGL3-Basic vector (Promega). Mutation of HRE4 was performed by site-directed mutagenesis and verified by sequencing. A 56-bp mouse PD-L1 gene sequence was inserted into the Bgl II site of pGL3-Promoter (Promega). MSC-1 cells were co-transfected with 0.2 µg of pGL4-hRluc/SV40 vector (which contains renilla luciferase sequences downstream of the SV40 promoter) and 1 µg of pGL3 empty vector, pGL3 HRE-4, or pGL3 HRE-4 MUT vectors in 6-well plates with Lipofectamine 2000 (Invitrogen) in OPTIMEM (Invitrogen) medium and grown under normoxia or hypoxia. After 48 h, firefly and Renilla luciferase activities were measured using the Dual-Luciferase Reporter assay (Promega) and the ratio of firefly/Renilla luciferase was determined. Statistics. Data were analyzed with GraphPad Prism. Student’s t test was used for single comparisons. Online supplemental material. Table S1 shows genomic oligonucleotide primers used for amplification of immunoprecipitated DNA samples from ChIP assays. Online supplemental material is available at Supplementary Material Supplemental Material
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              The ATM-Chk2 and ATR-Chk1 pathways in DNA damage signaling and cancer.

              DNA damage is a key factor both in the evolution and treatment of cancer. Genomic instability is a common feature of cancer cells, fuelling accumulation of oncogenic mutations, while radiation and diverse genotoxic agents remain important, if imperfect, therapeutic modalities. Cellular responses to DNA damage are coordinated primarily by two distinct kinase signaling cascades, the ATM-Chk2 and ATR-Chk1 pathways, which are activated by DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and single-stranded DNA respectively. Historically, these pathways were thought to act in parallel with overlapping functions; however, more recently it has become apparent that their relationship is more complex. In response to DSBs, ATM is required both for ATR-Chk1 activation and to initiate DNA repair via homologous recombination (HRR) by promoting formation of single-stranded DNA at sites of damage through nucleolytic resection. Interestingly, cells and organisms survive with mutations in ATM or other components required for HRR, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, but at the cost of genomic instability and cancer predisposition. By contrast, the ATR-Chk1 pathway is the principal direct effector of the DNA damage and replication checkpoints and, as such, is essential for the survival of many, although not all, cell types. Remarkably, deficiency for HRR in BRCA1- and BRCA2-deficient tumors confers sensitivity to cisplatin and inhibitors of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), an enzyme required for repair of endogenous DNA damage. In addition, suppressing DNA damage and replication checkpoint responses by inhibiting Chk1 can enhance tumor cell killing by diverse genotoxic agents. Here, we review current understanding of the organization and functions of the ATM-Chk2 and ATR-Chk1 pathways and the prospects for targeting DNA damage signaling processes for therapeutic purposes. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Mol Cancer
                Mol. Cancer
                Molecular Cancer
                BioMed Central (London )
                11 November 2019
                11 November 2019
                : 18
                [1 ]ISNI 0000 0000 9255 8984, GRID grid.89957.3a, Department of Oncology, , The Affiliated Sir Run Run Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, ; Nanjing, China
                [2 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1799 0784, GRID grid.412676.0, Department of Oncology, , The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, ; Nanjing, China
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0004 1799 0784, GRID grid.412676.0, Department of Thoracic surgery, , The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, ; Nanjing, China
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province
                Award ID: BK20171484
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: FundRef, National Natural Science Foundation of China;
                Award ID: 81672896
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: the Summit of the Six Top Talents Program of Jiangsu Province
                Award ID: 2017-WSN-179
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions
                Award ID: JX10231801
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                © The Author(s) 2019

                Oncology & Radiotherapy

                cancer therapy, chemotherapy, drug resistance, hypoxia, tumor microenvironment


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