Molecular cancer

Lipid starvation and hypoxia synergistically activate ICAM1 and multiple genes in an Sp1-dependent manner to promote the growth of ovarian cancer.

PMID 25879517


Elucidation of the molecular mechanisms by which cancer cells overcome hypoxia is potentially important for targeted therapy. Complexation of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) with aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocators can enhance gene expression and initiate cellular responses to hypoxia. However, multiple molecular mechanisms may be required for cancer cells to adapt to diverse microenvironments. We previously demonstrated that a physical interaction between the ubiquitously expressed transcription factor Sp1 and HIF2 is a major cause of FVII gene activation in poor prognostic ovarian clear cell carcinoma (CCC) cells under hypoxia. Furthermore, it was found that FVII activation is synergistically enhanced when serum-starved cells are cultured under hypoxic conditions. In this study, we investigated whether HIFs and transcription factor Sp1 cooperate to activate multiple genes in CCC cells under conditions of serum starvation and hypoxia (SSH) and then contribute to malignant phenotypes. To identify genes activated under hypoxic conditions in an Sp1-dependent manner, we first performed cDNA microarray analyses. We further investigated the molecular mechanisms of synergistic gene activations including the associated serum factors by various experiments such as real-time RT-PCR, western blotting and chromatin immunoprecipitation. The study was further extended to animal experiments to investigate how it contributes to CCC progression in vivo. ICAM1 is one such gene dramatically induced by SSH and is highly induced by SSH and its synergistic activation involves both the mTOR and autonomously activated TNFα-NFκB axes. We identified long chain fatty acids (LCFA) as a major class of lipids that is associated with albumin, a serum factor responsible for synergistic gene activation under SSH. Furthermore, we found that ICAM1 can be induced in vivo to promote tumor growth. Sp1 and HIFs collaborate to activate genes required for the adaptation of CCC cells to severe microenvironments, such as LCFA starvation and hypoxia. This study highlights the importance of transcriptional regulation under lipid starvation and hypoxia in the promotion of CCC tumor growth.