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Cancer Res. 2008 Jan 1;68(1):172-80. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-2678.

Hypoxia regulates choline kinase expression through hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha signaling in a human prostate cancer model.

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Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Science, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


The intensity of the total choline (tCho) signal in spectroscopic images of tumors is spatially heterogeneous. The likewise heterogeneous physiologic tumor microenvironment may contribute to this heterogeneity. We therefore investigated the relationship between hypoxia, choline metabolites, and choline kinase (Chk) in a human prostate cancer model. Human PC-3 prostate cancer cells were engineered to express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) under hypoxic conditions. These PC-3-5HRE-EGFP cells were characterized in culture and as tumors transplanted in mice using (1)H magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and MRS imaging (MRSI) combined with EGFP fluorescence microscopy and imaging. Hypoxic EGFP-fluorescing tumor regions colocalized with regions of high tCho in combined MRSI and optical imaging studies. Cellular phosphocholine (PC) and tCho concentrations as well as Chk expression levels significantly increased following exposure of PC-3 cells to hypoxia. A putative promoter region located 5' of the translation start site of the human chk-alpha gene was cloned and luciferase (Luc)-based reporter vector constructs were generated. Luc reporter assays provided evidence that some of the putative hypoxia response elements (HRE) within this putative chk-alpha promoter region functioned in vitro. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays using an antibody against hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1 alpha showed that HIF-1 can directly bind this region of the endogenous chk-alpha promoter in hypoxic PC-3-5HRE-EGFP cells. These data suggest that HIF-1 activation of HREs within the putative chk-alpha promoter region can increase Chk-alpha expression within hypoxic environments, consequently increasing cellular PC and tCho levels within these environments.

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