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      Hypoxia alters gene expression in human neuroblastoma cells toward an immature and neural crest-like phenotype

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          Abstract

          Insufficient oxygen and nutrient supply often restrain solid tumor growth, and the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF) 1 alpha and HIF-2 alpha are key transcription regulators of phenotypic adaptation to low oxygen levels. Moreover, mouse gene disruption studies have implicated HIF-2 alpha in embryonic regulation of tyrosine hydroxylase, a hallmark gene of the sympathetic nervous system. Neuroblastoma tumors originate from immature sympathetic cells, and therefore we investigated the effect of hypoxia on the differentiation status of human neuroblastoma cells. Hypoxia stabilized HIF-1 alpha and HIF-2 alpha proteins and activated the expression of known hypoxia-induced genes, such as vascular endothelial growth factor and tyrosine hydroxylase. These changes in gene expression also occurred in hypoxic regions of experimental neuroblastoma xenografts grown in mice. In contrast, hypoxia decreased the expression of several neuronal/neuroendocrine marker genes but induced genes expressed in neural crest sympathetic progenitors, for instance c-kit and Notch-1. Thus, hypoxia apparently causes dedifferentiation both in vitro and in vivo. These findings suggest a novel mechanism for selection of highly malignant tumor cells with stem-cell characteristics.

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          Ubiquitination of hypoxia-inducible factor requires direct binding to the beta-domain of the von Hippel-Lindau protein.

          von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease is a hereditary cancer syndrome that is characterized by the development of multiple vascular tumors and is caused by inactivation of the von Hippel-Lindau protein (pVHL). Here we show that pVHL, through its beta-domain, binds directly to hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), thereby targeting HIF for ubiquitination in an alpha-domain-dependent manner. This is the first function to be ascribed to the pVHL beta-domain. Furthermore, we provide the first direct evidence that pVHL has a function analogous to that of an F-box protein, namely, to recruit substrates to a ubiquitination machine. These results strengthen the link between overaccumulation of HIF and development of VHL disease.
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            HIF-1 alpha is required for solid tumor formation and embryonic vascularization.

            The transcriptional response to lowered oxygen levels is mediated by the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor (HIF-1), a heterodimer consisting of the constitutively expressed aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) and the hypoxic response factor HIF-1alpha. To study the role of the transcriptional hypoxic response in vivo we have targeted the murine HIF-1alpha gene. Loss of HIF-1alpha in embryonic stem (ES) cells dramatically retards solid tumor growth; this is correlated with a reduced capacity to release the angiogenic factor vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) during hypoxia. HIF-1alpha null mutant embryos exhibit clear morphological differences by embryonic day (E) 8.0, and by E8.5 there is a complete lack of cephalic vascularization, a reduction in the number of somites, abnormal neural fold formation and a greatly increased degree of hypoxia (measured by the nitroimidazole EF5). These data demonstrate the essential role of HIF-1alpha in controlling both embryonic and tumorigenic responses to variations in microenvironmental oxygenation.
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              Hypoxia inducible factor-alpha binding and ubiquitylation by the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein.

              The von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) has emerged as a key factor in cellular responses to oxygen availability, being required for the oxygen-dependent proteolysis of alpha subunits of hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF). Mutations in VHL cause a hereditary cancer syndrome associated with dysregulated angiogenesis, and up-regulation of hypoxia inducible genes. Here we investigate the mechanisms underlying these processes and show that extracts from VHL-deficient renal carcinoma cells have a defect in HIF-alpha ubiquitylation activity which is complemented by exogenous pVHL. This defect was specific for HIF-alpha among a range of substrates tested. Furthermore, HIF-alpha subunits were the only pVHL-associated proteasomal substrates identified by comparison of metabolically labeled anti-pVHL immunoprecipitates from proteosomally inhibited cells and normal cells. Analysis of pVHL/HIF-alpha interactions defined short sequences of conserved residues within the internal transactivation domains of HIF-alpha molecules sufficient for recognition by pVHL. In contrast, while full-length pVHL and the p19 variant interact with HIF-alpha, the association was abrogated by further N-terminal and C-terminal truncations. The interaction was also disrupted by tumor-associated mutations in the beta-domain of pVHL and loss of interaction was associated with defective HIF-alpha ubiquitylation and regulation, defining a mechanism by which these mutations generate a constitutively hypoxic pattern of gene expression promoting angiogenesis. The findings indicate that pVHL regulates HIF-alpha proteolysis by acting as the recognition component of a ubiquitin ligase complex, and support a model in which its beta domain interacts with short recognition sequences in HIF-alpha subunits.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                May 14 2002
                May 14 2002
                : 99
                : 10
                : 7021-7026
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.102660199
                124521
                12011461
                © 2002
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