The American journal of pathology

Early growth response-1 induces and enhances vascular endothelial growth factor-A expression in lung cancer cells.

PMID 20489156


Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) is crucial for angiogenesis, vascular permeability, and metastasis during tumor development. We demonstrate here that early growth response-1 (EGR-1), which is induced by the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway activation, activates VEGF-A in lung cancer cells. Increased EGR-1 expression was found in adenocarcinoma cells carrying mutant K-RAS or EGFR genes. Hypoxic culture, siRNA experiment, luciferase assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation, electrophoretic mobility shift assays, and quantitative RT-PCR using EGR-1-inducible lung cancer cells demonstrated that EGR-1 binds to the proximal region of the VEGF-A promoter, activates VEGF-A expression, and enhances hypoxia inducible factor 1alpha (HIF-1alpha)-mediated VEGF-A expression. The EGR-1 modulator, NAB-2, was rapidly induced by increased levels of EGR-1. Pathology samples of human lung adenocarcinomas revealed correlations between EGR-1/HIF-1alpha and VEGF-A expressions and relative elevation of EGR-1 and VEGF-A expression in mutant K-RAS- or EGFR-carrying adenocarcinomas. Both EGR-1 and VEGF-A expression increased as tumors dedifferentiated, whereas HIF-1alpha expression did not. Although weak correlation was found between EGR-1 and NAB-2 expressions on the whole, NAB-2 expression decreased as tumors dedifferentiated, and inhibition of DNA methyltransferase/histone deacetylase increased NAB-2 expression in lung cancer cells despite no epigenetic alteration in the NAB-2 promoter. These findings suggest that EGR-1 plays important roles on VEGF-A expression in lung cancer cells, and epigenetic silencing of transactivator(s) associated with NAB-2 expression might also contribute to upregulate VEGF-A expression.