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Cancer Cell. 2003 Apr;3(4):347-61.

Hypoxia promotes invasive growth by transcriptional activation of the met protooncogene.

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  • 1Division of Molecular Oncology, Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, University of Torino Medical School, Candiolo, Italy.


Hypoxia unleashes the invasive and metastatic potential of tumor cells by largely unknown mechanisms. The Met tyrosine kinase, a high affinity receptor for hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), plays a crucial role in controlling invasive growth and is often overexpressed in cancer. Here we show that: (1) hypoxia activates transcription of the met protooncogene, resulting in higher levels of Met; (2) hypoxic areas of tumors overexpress Met; (3) hypoxia amplifies HGF signaling; (4) hypoxia synergizes with HGF in inducing invasion; (5) the proinvasive effects of hypoxia are mimicked by Met overexpression; and (6) inhibition of Met expression prevents hypoxia-induced invasive growth. These data show that hypoxia promotes tumor invasion by sensitizing cells to HGF stimulation, providing a molecular basis to explain Met overexpression in cancer.

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