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Int J Oncol. 2007 Apr;30(4):793-802.

Silencing hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha inhibits cell migration and invasion under hypoxic environment in malignant gliomas.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Ehime University School of Medicine, Shitsukawa, Toon, Ehime 791-0295, Japan.


Malignant gliomas are characterized by active invasiveness, necrosis, and vascular proliferation. These pathological features have been speculated to be caused by tissue hypoxia. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), which is controlled by rapid stabilization of the HIF-1alpha subunit, is a pivotal transcriptional factor in the cellular response to hypoxia. Although many studies have described the relationship between tumor angiogenesis and hypoxic environment, the roles of HIF-1 in cell invasion have been barely elucidated in malignant gliomas. We investigated the role of HIF-1alpha in the motile and invasive activities of human glioma cells under hypoxia. Four malignant glioma cell lines, U87MG, U251MG, U373MG, and LN18, were cultured under 21 and 1% oxygen concentration. Expression of HIF-1alpha under hypoxia was observed to be much higher than that under normoxia in all cell lines. Introducing HIF-1alpha-targeted small interfering RNA (HIF-1alpha siRNA) into the glioma cell lines resulted in downregulation of HIF-1alpha expression, and significantly suppressed glioma cell migration in vitro. Furthermore, invasiveness was significantly reduced in the cells transfected with HIF-1alpha siRNA compared with those transfected with the control siRNA. Co-culture of glioma spheroids and rat brain slices showed that HIF-1alpha siRNA-transfected glioma cells failed to invade the surrounding normal brain tissue in an organotypic brain slice model. These effects of HIF-1alpha siRNA were more conspicuous under hypoxia than under normoxia. In addition, under hypoxic conditions, the level of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 mRNA was upregulated, and that of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-2 was downregulated in all glioma cell lines. Treatment with HIF-1alpha siRNA resulted in downregulation of MMP-2 mRNA and upregulation of TIMP-2 mRNA. Furthermore, the enzyme activities of MMP-2 and MMP-9, both of which were activated by hypoxia, decreased with the introduction of HIF-1alpha siRNA. These findings suggest that overexpression of HIF-1alpha induced by hypoxic stress is an essential event in the activation of glioma cell motility through alteration of invasion-related molecules. Targeting the HIF-1alpha molecule may be a novel therapeutic strategy for malignant gliomas.

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