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Int J Cancer. 2008 Mar 15;122(6):1435-40.

Extracellular matrix and HIF-1 signaling: the role of prolidase.

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Metabolism and Cancer Susceptibility Section, Laboratory of Comparative Carcinogenesis, National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) plays an important role in stress-responsive gene expression. Although primarily sensitive to hypoxia, HIF-1 signaling can be regulated by a number of stress factors including metabolic stress, growth factors and molecules present in the extracellular matrix (ECM). Degradation of ECM by metalloproteinases (MMP) is important for tumor progression, invasion and metastasis. ECM is predominantly collagen, and the imino acids (Pro and HyPro) comprise 25% of collagen residues. The final step in collagen degradation is catalyzed by prolidase, the obligate peptidase for imidodipeptides with Pro and HyPro in the carboxyl terminus. Defective wound healing in patients with inherited prolidase deficiency is associated with histologic features of angiopathy suggesting that prolidase may play a role in angiogenesis. Because HIF-1 alpha is central to angiogenesis, we considered that prolidase may modulate this pathway. To test this hypothesis, we made expression constructs of human prolidase and obtained stable transfectants in colorectal cancer cells (RKO). Overexpression of prolidase resulted in increased nuclear hypoxia inducible factor (HIF-1 alpha) levels and elevated expression of HIF-1-dependent gene products, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and glucose transporter-1 (Glut-1). The activation of HIF-1-dependent transcription was shown by prolidase-dependent activation of hypoxia response element (HRE)-luciferase expression. We used an oxygen-dependent degradation domain (ODD)-luciferase reporter construct as a surrogate for HIF-1 alpha as an in situ prolyl-hydroxylase assay. Since this reporter is degraded by VHL-dependent mechanisms, the increased levels of luciferase observed with prolidase expression reflected the decreased HIF-1 alpha prolyl hydroxylase activity. Additionally, the differential expression of prolidase in 2 breast cancer cell lines showed prolidase-dependent differences in HIF-1 alpha levels. These findings show that metabolism of imidodipeptides by prolidase plays a previously unrecognized role in angiogenic signaling.

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