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Oncogene. 2009 Jul 16;28(28):2581-92. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.124. Epub 2009 Jun 1.

Pim-1 plays a pivotal role in hypoxia-induced chemoresistance.

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Division of Cancer-Related Genes, Institute for Genetic Medicine, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan.


Hypoxia changes the responses of cancer cells to many chemotherapy agents, resulting in chemoresistance. The underlying molecular mechanism of hypoxia-induced drug resistance remains unclear. Pim-1 is a survival kinase, which phosphorylates Bad at serine 112 to antagonize drug-induced apoptosis. Here we show that hypoxia increases Pim-1 in a hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha-independent manner. Inhibition of Pim-1 function by dominant-negative Pim-1 dramatically restores the drug sensitivity to apoptosis induced by chemotherapy under hypoxic conditions in both in vitro and in vivo tumor models. Introduction of siRNAs for Pim-1 also resensitizes cancer cells to chemotherapy drugs under hypoxic conditions, whereas forced overexpression of Pim-1 endows solid tumor cells with resistance to cisplatin, even under normoxia. Dominant-negative Pim-1 prevents a decrease in mitochondrial transmembrane potential in solid tumor cells, which is normally induced by cisplatin (CDDP), followed by the reduced activity of Caspase-3 and Caspase-9, indicating that Pim-1 participates in hypoxia-induced drug resistance through the stabilization of mitochondrial transmembrane potential. Our results demonstrate that Pim-1 is a pivotal regulator involved in hypoxia-induced chemoresistance. Targeting Pim-1 may improve the chemotherapeutic strategy for solid tumors.

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