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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Apr;1803(4):443-51. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2010.01.010. Epub 2010 Feb 1.

The oncofetal H19 RNA connection: hypoxia, p53 and cancer.

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The Department of Biological Chemistry, Alexander Silberman Institute of life Science, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.


Expression of the imprinted H19 gene is remarkably elevated in a large number of human cancers. Recently, we reported that H19 RNA is up-regulated in hypoxic stress and furthermore, it possesses oncogenic properties. However, the underlying mechanism(s) of these phenomena remain(s) unknown. Here we demonstrate a tight correlation between H19 RNA elevation by hypoxia and the status of the p53 tumor suppressor. Wild type p53 (p53(wt)) prevents the induction of H19 upon hypoxia, and upon its reconstitution in p53(null) cells. The last case is accompanied by a decrease in cell viability. The p53 effect is nuclear and seems independent of its tetramerization. Furthermore, using knockdown and over-expression approaches we identified HIF1-alpha as a critical factor that is responsible for H19 induction upon hypoxia. Knocking down HIF1-alpha abolishes H19 RNA induction, while its over-expression significantly enhances the H19 elevation in p53(null) hypoxic cells. In p53(wt) hypoxic cells simultaneous suppression of p53 and over-expression of HIF1-alpha are needed to induce H19 significantly, while each treatment separately resulting in a mild induction, indicating that the molecular mechanism of p53 suppression effect on H19 may at least in part involve interfering with HIF1-alpha activity. In vivo a significant increase in H19 expression occurred in tumors derived from p53(null) cells but not in p53(wt) cells. Taken together, our results indicate that a functional link exists between p53, HIF1-alpha and H19 that determines H19 elevation in hypoxic cancer cells. We suggest that this linkage plays a role in tumor development.

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