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Int J Cancer. 2010 Jun 15;126(12):2847-57. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25001.

A gastrin precursor, gastrin-gly, upregulates VEGF expression in colonic epithelial cells through an HIF-1-independent mechanism.

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Cancer Department, INSERM U.858, (I2MR) Institute of Molecular Medicine, 1 avenue J. Poulhes, Toulouse Cedex 4, France.


One of the major angiogenic factor released by tumor cells is VEGF. Its high expression is correlated with poor prognosis in colorectal tumors. In colon cancer, gastrin gene expression is also upregulated. In these tumors, gastrin precursors are mainly produced and act as growth factors. Recently, a study has also shown that the gastrin precursor, G-gly induced in vitro tubules formation by vascular endothelial cells suggesting a potential proangiogenic role. Here, we demonstrate that stimulation of human colorectal cancer cell lines with G-gly increases the expression of the proangiogenic factor VEGF at the mRNA and protein levels. In addition, blocking the progastrin autocrine loop leads to a downregulation of VEGF. Although HIF-1 is a major transcriptional activator for VEGF our results suggest an alternative mechanism for VEGF regulation in normoxic conditions, independent of HIF-1 that involves the PI3K/AKT pathway. Indeed we show that G-gly does not lead to HIF-1 accumulation in colon cancer cells. Moreover, we found that G-gly activates the PI3K/AKT pathway and inhibition of this pathway reverses the effects of G-gly observed on VEGF mRNA and protein levels. In correlation with these results, we observed in vivo, on colon tissue sections from transgenic mice overexpressing G-gly, an increase in VEGF expression in absence of HIF-1 accumulation. In conclusion, our study demonstrates that gastrin precursors, known to promote colon epithelial cells proliferation and survival can also contribute to the angiogenesis process by stimulating the expression of the proangiogenic factor VEGF via the PI3K pathway and independently of hypoxia conditions.

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