British journal of cancer

Factor inhibiting HIF (FIH-1) promotes renal cancer cell survival by protecting cells from HIF-1α-mediated apoptosis.

PMID 21386837


Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (CCRCC) is the commonest form of kidney cancer. Up to 91% have biallelic inactivation of VHL, resulting in stabilisation of HIF-α subunits. Factor inhibiting HIF-1 is an enzyme that hydroxylates HIF-α subunits and prevents recruitment of the co-activator CBP/P300. An important question is whether FIH-1 controls HIF activity in CCRCC. Human VHL defective CCRCC lines RCC10, RCC4 and 786-O were used to determine the role of FIH-1 in modulating HIF activity, using small interfering RNA knockdown, retroviral gene expression, quantitative RT-PCR, western blot analysis, Annexin V and propidium iodide labelling. Although it was previously suggested that FIH-1 is suppressed in CCRCC, we found that FIH-1 mRNA and protein are actually present at similar levels in CCRCC and normal kidney. The FIH-1 inhibition or knockdown in the VHL defective CCRCC lines RCC10 and RCC4 (which express both HIF-1α and HIF-2α) resulted in increased expression of HIF target genes. In the 786-O CCRCC cell line, which expresses only HIF-2α, FIH-1 attenuation showed no significant effect on expression of these genes; introduction of HIF-1α resulted in sensitivity of HIF targets to FIH-1 knockdown. In RCC4 and RCC10, knockdown of FIH-1 increased apoptosis. Suppressing HIF-1α expression in RCC10 prevented FIH-1 knockdown from increasing apoptosis. Our results support a unifying model in which HIF-1α has a tumour suppressor action in CCRCC, held in check by FIH-1. Inhibiting FIH-1 in CCRCC could be used to bias the HIF response towards HIF-1α and decrease tumour cell viability.