Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 promotes pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma invasion and metastasis by activating transcription of the actin-bundling protein fascin

Xiao Zhao, Song Gao, He Ren, Wei Sun, Huan Zhang, Jianwei Sun, Shengyu Yang, Jihui Hao
Cancer Research 2014 May 1, 74 (9): 2455-64
Because of the early onset of local invasion and distant metastasis, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the most lethal human malignant tumor, with a 5-year survival rate of less than 5%. In this study, we investigated the role of fascin, a prometastasis actin-bundling protein, in PDAC progression, invasion, and the molecular mechanisms underlying fascin overexpression in PDAC. Our data showed that the expression levels of fascin were higher in cancer tissues than in normal tissues, and fascin overexpression correlated with the PDAC differentiation and prognosis. Fascin overexpression promoted PDAC cell migration and invasion by elevating matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) expression. Fascin regulated MMP-2 expression through protein kinase C and extracellular signal-regulated kinase. Importantly, our data showed that hypoxia induced fascin overexpression in PDAC cells by promoting the binding of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) to a hypoxia response element on the fascin promoter and transactivating fascin mRNA transcription. Intriguingly, HIF-1α expression levels in PDAC patient specimens significantly correlated with fascin expression. Moreover, immunohistochemistry staining of consecutive sections demonstrated colocalization between HIF-1α and fascin in PDAC specimens, suggesting that hypoxia and HIF-1α were responsible for fascin overexpression in PDAC. When ectopically expressed, fascin was able to rescue PDAC cell invasion after HIF-1α knockdown. Our results demonstrated that fascin is a direct target gene of HIF-1. Our data suggested that the hypoxic tumor microenvironment in PDAC might promote invasion and metastasis by inducing fascin overexpression, and fascin might be targeted to block PDAC progression.

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