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HIF-1α Modulates Energy Metabolism in Cancer Cells by Inducing Over-Expression of Specific Glycolytic Isoforms

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To develop new and more efficient anti-cancer strategies it will be important to characterize the products of transcription factor activity essential for tumorigenesis. One such factor is hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α), a transcription factor induced by low oxygen conditions and found in high levels in malignant solid tumors, but not in normal tissues or slow-growing tumors. In fast-growing tumors, HIF-1α is involved in the activation of numerous cellular processes including resistance against apoptosis, over-expression of drug efflux membrane pumps, vascular remodeling and angiogenesis as well as metastasis. In cancer cells, HIF-1α induces over-expression and increased activity of several glycolytic protein isoforms that differ from those found in non-malignant cells, including transporters (GLUT1, GLUT3) and enzymes (HKI, HKII, PFK-L, ALD-A, ALD-C, PGK1, ENO-α, PYK-M2, LDH-A, PFKFB-3). The enhanced tumor glycolytic flux triggered by HIF-1α also involves changes in the kinetic patterns of expressed isoforms of key glycolytic enzymes. The HIF-1α induced isoforms provide cancer cells with reduced sensitivity to physiological inhibitors, lower affinity for products and higher catalytic capacity (Vmaxf) in forward reactions because of marked over-expression compared to those isoforms expressed in normal tissues. Some of the HIF1α-induced glycolytic isoforms also participate in survival pathways, including transcriptional activation of H2B histone (by LDH-A), inhibition of apoptosis (by HKII) and promotion of cell migration (by ENO-α). HIF-1α action may also modulate mitochondrial function and oxygen consumption by inactivating the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex in some tumor types, or by modulating cytochrome c oxidase subunit 4 expression to increase oxidative phosphorylation in other cancer cell lines. In this review, the roles of HIF-1α and HIF1α- induced glycolytic enzymes are examined and it is concluded that targeting the HIF1α-induced glucose transporter and hexokinase, important to glycolytic flux control, might provide better therapeutic targets for inhibiting tumor growth and progression than targeting HIF1α itself.

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Keywords: Glucose transporters; HIF-1α; glycolysis; glycolytic inhibitors; hexokinases; mitochondria; mitochondrial inhibitors

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2009

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  • The aim of Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry is to publish short reviews on the important recent developments in medicinal chemistry and allied disciplines.

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    Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal and pharmaceutical chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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