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Cancer Res. 2000 Jan 15;60(2):490-8.

Oncogenes and tumor angiogenesis: differential modes of vascular endothelial growth factor up-regulation in ras-transformed epithelial cells and fibroblasts.

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Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


A possible link between oncogenes and tumor angiogenesis has been implicated by the finding that expression of various oncogenes, particularly mutant ras, can lead to a marked induction of a potent paracrine stimulator of angiogenesis, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). We sought to determine how oncogenic ras induction of VEGF is mediated at the molecular level and whether the mechanisms involved differ fundamentally between transformed epithelial cells and fibroblasts. Our results suggest that in a subline (called RAS-3) of immortalized nontumorigenic rat intestinal epithelial cells (IEC-18) that acquired a tumorigenic phenotype upon transfection of mutant ras, up-regulation of VEGF occurs in the absence of an autocrine growth factor circuit. The expression of VEGF mRNA and protein by RAS-3 cells was strongly suppressed in the presence of LY294002, an inhibitor of phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase, but remained largely unaffected in the same cells treated with an inhibitor (PD98059) of mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase 1 (MKK/MEK-1). This is consistent with the observation that overexpression of a constitutively activated mutant of MEK-1 (AN3/ S222D) in the parental IEC-18 cells did not result in up-regulation of VEGF production. The impact of mutant ras on VEGF expression was also significantly amplified at high cell density, conditions under which RAS-3 cells became less sensitive to LY294002-induced VEGF down-regulation. In marked contrast to cells of epithelial origin, ras-transformed murine fibroblasts (3T3RAS) up-regulated VEGF in a manner that was strongly inhibitable by MEK-1 blockade (ie. treatment with PD98059), whereas these cells were relatively unaffected by treatment with the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase inhibitor LY294002. In addition, VEGF was up-regulated by 2-3-fold in NIH3T3 cells overexpressing mutant MEK-1. Collectively, the data suggest that the stimulatory effect of mutant ras on VEGF expression is executed in a nonautocrine and cell type-dependent manner and that it can be significantly exacerbated by physiological/ environmental influences such as high cell density.

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