• The HIF1α-PDGFD-PDGFRα axis controls glioblastoma growth at normoxia/mild-hypoxia and confers sensitivity to targeted therapy by echinomycin

      Peng, Gong; Wang, Yin; Ge, Pengfei; Bailey, Christopher; Zhang, Peng; Zhang, Di; Meng, Zhaoli; Qi, Chong; Chen, Qian; Chen, Jingtao; et al. (Springer Nature, 2021-09-01)
      Background: Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a lethal brain tumor, remains the most daunting challenge in cancer therapy. Overexpression and constitutive activation of PDGFs and PDGFRα are observed in most GBM; however, available inhibitors targeting isolated signaling pathways are minimally effective. Therefore, better understanding of crucial mechanisms underlying GBM is needed for developing more effective targeted therapies. Methods: Target genes controlled by HIF1α in GBM were identified by analysis of TCGA database and by RNA-sequencing of GBM cells with HIF1α knockout by sgRNA-Cas9 method. Functional roles of HIF1α, PDGFs and PDGFRs were elucidated by loss- or gain-of-function assays or chemical inhibitors, and compared in response to oxygen tension. Pharmacological efficacy and gene expression in mice with intracranial xenografts of primary GBM were analyzed by bioluminescence imaging and immunofluorescence. Results: HIF1α binds the PDGFD proximal promoter and PDGFRA intron enhancers in GBM cells under normoxia or mild-hypoxia to induce their expression and maintain constitutive activation of AKT signaling, which in turn increases HIF1α protein level and activity. Paradoxically, severe hypoxia abrogates PDGFRα expression despite enhancing HIF1α accumulation and corresponding PDGF-D expression. Knockout of HIF1A, PDGFD or PDGFRA in U251 cells inhibits cell growth and invasion in vitro and eradicates tumor growth in vivo. HIF1A knockdown in primary GBM extends survival of xenograft mice, whereas PDGFD overexpression in GL261 shortens survival. HIF1α inhibitor Echinomycin induces GBM cell apoptosis and effectively inhibits growth of GBM in vivo by simultaneously targeting HIF1α-PDGFD/PDGFRα-AKT feedforward pathway. Conclusions: HIF1α orchestrates expression of PDGF-D and PDGFRα for constitutive activation of AKT pathway and is crucial for GBM malignancy. Therefore, therapies targeting HIF1α should provide an effective treatment for GBM.