PloS one

PI3K and ERK-induced Rac1 activation mediates hypoxia-induced HIF-1α expression in MCF-7 breast cancer cells.

PMID 21980400


Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1α) expression induced by hypoxia plays a critical role in promoting tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the induction of HIF-1α in tumor cells remain unknown. In this study, we reported that hypoxia could induce HIF-1α and VEGF expression accompanied by Rac1 activation in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Blockade of Rac1 activation with ectopic expression of an inactive mutant form of Rac1 (T17N) or Rac1 siRNA downregulated hypoxia-induced HIF-1α and VEGF expression. Furthermore, Hypoxia increased PI3K and ERK signaling activity. Both PI3K inhibitor LY294002 and ERK inhibitor U0126 suppressed hypoxia-induced Rac1 activation as well as HIF-1α expression. Moreover, hypoxia treatment resulted in a remarkable production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). N-acetyl-L-cysteine, a scavenger of ROS, inhibited hypoxia-induced ROS generation, PI3K, ERK and Rac1 activation as well as HIF-1α expression. Taken together, our study demonstrated that hypoxia-induced HIF-1α expression involves a cascade of signaling events including ROS generation, activation of PI3K and ERK signaling, and subsequent activation of Rac1.