Author(s): Kaidi A, Qualtrough D, Williams AC, Paraskeva C
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Abstract Cyclooxygenase (COX)-2, the inducible key enzyme for prostanoid biosynthesis, is overexpressed in most colorectal carcinomas and a subset of colorectal adenomas. Genetic, biochemical, and clinical evidence indicates an important role for COX-2 in colorectal tumorigenesis. Although COX-2 can be induced by aberrant growth factor signaling and oncogene activation during colorectal tumorigenesis, the role of microenvironmental factors such as hypoxia in COX-2 regulation remains to be elucidated. For the first time, we report that under hypoxic conditions COX-2 protein levels increase in colorectal adenoma and carcinoma cells. Rigorous analyses reveal that COX-2 up-regulation is transcriptional and is associated with hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1alpha induction. Oligonucleotide pull-down and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays reveal that HIF-1alpha binds a hypoxia-responsive element on the COX-2 promoter. COX-2 up-regulation during hypoxia is accompanied by increased levels of prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), which promote tumor cell survival under hypoxic conditions. In addition, elevated levels of PGE(2) in hypoxic colorectal tumor cells enhance vascular endothelial growth factor expression and HIF-1 transcriptional activity by activating the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, showing a potential positive feedback loop that contributes to COX-2 up-regulation during hypoxia. This study identifies COX-2 as a direct target for HIF-1 in colorectal tumor cells. In addition, COX-2 up-regulation represents a pivotal cellular adaptive response to hypoxia with implication for colorectal tumor cell survival and angiogenesis. We propose that using modified COX-2-selective inhibitors, which are only activated under hypoxic conditions, could potentially be a novel more selective strategy for colorectal cancer prevention and treatment.
This article was published in Cancer Res
and referenced in Journal of Cancer Science & Therapy