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Cancer Res. 2019 Sep 5. pii: canres.0198.2019. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-0198. [Epub ahead of print]

Mitochondrial NIX Promotes Tumor Survival in the Hypoxic Niche of Glioblastoma.

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Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute
Microbiology, Immunology and Cancer Biology, University of Virginia.
Neuro-Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute.
Neuro-Oncology Branch, NIH/NCI/CCR.
Neuro-Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health.
Neurological Surgery, University of Louisville.
Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute.
Department of Medicine, University of California - San Diego School of Medicine.
Neurology, University of Chicago.


Cancer cells rely on mitochondrial functions to regulate key survival and death signals. How cancer cells regulate mitochondrial autophagy (mitophagy) in the tumor microenvironment as well as utilize mitophagy as a survival signal is still not well understood. Here we elucidate a key survival mechanism of mitochondrial NIX-mediated mitophagy within the hypoxic region of glioblastoma, the most malignant brain tumor. NIX was overexpressed in the pseudopalisading cells that envelop the hypoxic-necrotic regions, and mitochondrial NIX expression was robust in patient-derived glioblastoma tumor tissues and glioblastoma stem cells (GSC). NIX was required for hypoxia and oxidative stress-induced mitophagy through NFE2L2/NRF2 transactivation. Silencing NIX impaired mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) clearance, cancer stem cell maintenance, and HIF/mTOR/RHEB signaling pathways under hypoxia, resulting in suppression of glioblastoma survival in vitro and in vivo. Clinical significance of these findings was validated by the compelling association between NIX expression and poor outcome for glioblastoma patients. Taken together, our findings indicate that the NIX-mediated mitophagic pathway may represent a key therapeutic target for solid tumors including glioblastoma.

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