Regulation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha expression and function by the mammalian target of rapamycin.
Hudson CC., Liu M., Chiang GG., Otterness DM., Loomis DC., Kaper F., Giaccia AJ., Abraham RT.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is a heterodimeric transcription factor containing an inducibly expressed HIF-1alpha subunit and a constititutively expressed HIF-1beta subunit. Under hypoxic conditions, the HIF-1alpha subunit accumulates due to a decrease in the rate of proteolytic degradation, and the resulting HIF-1alpha-HIF-1beta heterodimers undergo posttranslational modifications that promote transactivation. Recent studies suggest that amplified signaling through phosphoinositide 3-kinase, and its downstream target, mTOR, enhances HIF-1-dependent gene expression in certain cell types. In the present study, we have explored further the linkage between mTOR and HIF-1 in PC-3 prostate cancer cells treated with hypoxia or the hypoxia mimetic agent, CoCl(2). Pretreatment of PC-3 cells with the mTOR inhibitor, rapamycin, inhibited both the accumulation of HIF-1alpha and HIF-1-dependent transcription induced by hypoxia or CoCl(2). Transfection of these cells with wild-type mTOR enhanced HIF-1 activation by hypoxia or CoCl(2), while expression of a rapamycin-resistant mTOR mutant rendered both HIF-1alpha stabilization and HIF-1 transactivating function refractory to inhibition by rapamycin. Studies with GAL4-HIF-1alpha fusion proteins pinpointed the oxygen-dependent degradation domain as a critical target for the rapamycin-sensitive, mTOR-dependent signaling pathway leading to HIF-1alpha stabilization by CoCl(2). These studies position mTOR as an upstream activator of HIF-1 function in cancer cells and suggest that the antitumor activity of rapamycin is mediated, in part, through the inhibition of cellular responses to hypoxic stress.