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Nat Med. 2009 Mar;15(3):319-24. doi: 10.1038/nm.1922. Epub 2009 Mar 1.

Regulation of endocytosis via the oxygen-sensing pathway.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, St. Michael's Hospital, University of Toronto, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.


Tumor hypoxia is associated with disease progression, resistance to conventional cancer therapies and poor prognosis. Hypoxia, by largely unknown mechanisms, leads to deregulated accumulation of and signaling via receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) that are critical for driving oncogenesis. Here, we show that hypoxia or loss of von Hippel-Lindau protein--the principal negative regulator of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)--prolongs the activation of epidermal growth factor receptor that is attributable to lengthened receptor half-life and retention in the endocytic pathway. The deceleration in endocytosis is due to the attenuation of Rab5-mediated early endosome fusion via HIF-dependent downregulation of a critical Rab5 effector, rabaptin-5, at the level of transcription. Primary kidney and breast tumors with strong hypoxic signatures show significantly lower expression of rabaptin-5 RNA and protein. These findings reveal a general role of the oxygen-sensing pathway in endocytosis and support a model in which tumor hypoxia or oncogenic activation of HIF prolongs RTK-mediated signaling by delaying endocytosis-mediated deactivation of receptors.

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