Formation of renal cysts and tumors in Vhl/Trp53-deficient mice requires HIF-1a and HIF-2a

Désirée Schönenberger, etc
Cancer Research, 2016

The von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor gene is inactivated in the majority of clear cell renal cell carcinomas (ccRCC), but genetic ablation of Vhl alone in mouse models is insufficient to recapitulate human tumorigenesis. One function of pVHL is to regulate the stability of the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF), which become constitutively activated in the absence of pVHL. In established ccRCC, HIF-1a has been implicated as a renal tumor suppressor, whereas HIF-2a is considered an oncoprotein. In this study, we investigated the contributions of HIF-1a and HIF-2a to ccRCC initiation in the context of Vhl deficiency. We found that deleting Vhl plus Hif1a or Hif2a specifically in the renal epithelium did not induce tumor formation. However, HIF-1a and HIF-2a differentially regulated cell proliferation, mitochondrial abundance and oxidative capacity, glycogen accumulation, and acquisition of a clear cell phenotype in Vhl-deficient renal epithelial cells. HIF-1a, but not HIF-2a, induced Warburg-like metabolism characterized by increased glycolysis, decreased oxygen consumption, and decreased ATP production in mouse embryonic fibroblasts, providing insights into the cellular changes potentially occurring in Vhl mutant renal cells before ccRCC formation. Importantly, deletion of either Hif1a or Hif2a completely prevented the formation of renal cysts and tumors in Vhl/Tp53 mutant mice. These findings argue that both HIF-1a and HIF-2a exert pro-tumorigenic functions during the earliest stages of cyst and tumor formation in the kidney.

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Cancer Research
doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-15-1859
University of Zurich