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Oncogenesis. 2016 Mar 14;5:e209. doi: 10.1038/oncsis.2016.13.

Essential role for SphK1/S1P signaling to regulate hypoxia-inducible factor 2α expression and activity in cancer.

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CNRS, Institut de Pharmacologie et de Biologie Structurale, Toulouse, France.
Université de Toulouse, UPS, IPBS, Toulouse, France.
Equipe Labellisée Ligue contre le Cancer, Toulouse, France.
Laboratoire d'Excellence Toulouse Cancer (TOUCAN), INSERM UMR-1037, Cancer Research Center of Toulouse (CRCT), Université de Toulouse, Toulouse, France.
Lpath Inc, San Diego, CA, USA.
Institut Universitaire du Cancer Toulouse Oncopôle, Toulouse, France.


The sphingosine kinase-1/sphingosine 1-phosphate (SphK1/S1P) signaling pathway has been reported to modulate the expression of the canonical transcription factor hypoxia-inducible HIF-1α in multiple cell lineages. HIF-2α is also frequently overexpressed in solid tumors but its role has been mostly studied in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), the most common form of kidney cancer, where HIF-2α has been established as a driver of a more aggressive disease. In this study, the role of SphK1/S1P signaling with regard to HIF-2α was investigated in various cancer cell models including ccRCC cells. Under hypoxic conditions or in ccRCC lacking a functional von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene and expressing high levels of HIF-2α, SphK1 activity controls HIF-2α expression and transcriptional activity through a phospholipase D (PLD)-driven mechanism. SphK1 silencing promotes a VHL-independent HIF-2α loss of expression and activity and reduces cell proliferation in ccRCC. Importantly, downregulation of SphK1 is associated with impaired Akt and mTOR signaling in ccRCC. Taking advantage of a monoclonal antibody neutralizing extracellular S1P, we show that inhibition of S1P extracellular signaling blocks HIF-2α accumulation in ccRCC cell lines, an effect mimicked when the S1P transporter Spns2 or the S1P receptor 1 (S1P1) is silenced. Here, we report the first evidence that the SphK1/S1P signaling pathway regulates the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible HIF-2α in diverse cancer cell lineages notably ccRCC, where HIF-2α has been established as a driver of a more aggressive disease. These findings demonstrate that SphK1/S1P signaling may act as a canonical regulator of HIF-2α expression in ccRCC, giving support to its inhibition as a therapeutic strategy that could contribute to reduce HIF-2 activity in ccRCC.

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