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The 2-oxoglutarate analog 3-oxoglutarate decreases normoxic hypoxia-inducible factor-1α in cancer cells, induces cell death, and reduces tumor xenograft growth

Authors Koivunen P, Fell SM, Lu W, Rabinowitz JD, Kung AL, Schlisio S

Received 14 September 2015

Accepted for publication 11 December 2015

Published 4 March 2016 Volume 2016:4 Pages 15—27

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/HP.S96366

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Professor Jose Lopez-Barneo

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Doerthe Katschinski

Peppi Koivunen,1 Stuart M Fell,2,3 Wenyun Lu,4 Joshua D Rabinowitz,4 Andrew L Kung,5,6 Susanne Schlisio,2,7

 1Biocenter Oulu, Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Oulu Center for Cell-Matrix Research, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland; 2Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Ltd, Stockholm, Sweden; 3Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; 4Department of Chemistry and Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 5Department of Medical Oncology, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 6Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, USA; 7Department of Microbiology and Tumor and Cell Biology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The cellular response to hypoxia is primarily regulated by the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). HIF-1α is also a major mediator of tumor physiology, and its abundance is correlated with therapeutic resistance in a broad range of cancers. Accumulation of HIF-1α under hypoxia is mainly controlled by the oxygen-sensing HIF prolyl 4-hydroxylases (EGLNs, also known as PHDs). Here, we identified a high level of normoxic HIF-1α protein in various cancer cell lines. EGLNs require oxygen and 2-oxoglutarate for enzymatic activity. We tested the ability of several cell-permeable 2-oxoglutarate analogs to regulate the abundance of HIF-1α protein. We identified 3-oxoglutarate as a potent regulator of HIF-1α in normoxic conditions. In contrast to 2-oxoglutarate, 3-oxoglutarate decreased the abundance of HIF-1α protein in several cancer cell lines in normoxia and diminished HIF-1α levels independent of EGLN enzymatic activity. Furthermore, we observed that 3-oxoglutarate was detrimental to cancer cell survival. We show that esterified 3-oxoglutarate, in combination with the cancer chemotherapeutic drug vincristine, induces apoptosis and inhibits tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. Our data imply that a novel treatment strategy targeting HIF-1α in combination with the use of existing cytotoxic agents could serve as potent, future antitumor chemotherapies.

Keywords: cancer, EGLN, HIF, hypoxia, 3-oxoglutarate, prolyl hydroxylase

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