Germline mutations of the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor gene (VHL) in humans causes a hereditary cancer syndrome characterized by the development of retinal and central nervous system hemangioblastomas. Other tumors associated with von Hippel-Lindau disease include clear cell renal carcinomas and pheochromocytomas. Tumor development in this setting is due to functional loss of the remaining wild-type VHL allele. Biallelic VHL inactivation is also common in nonhereditary hemangioblastomas and clear cell renal carcinomas, in keeping with Knudson's 2-Hit Model of carcinogenesis. The VHL gene product, pVHL, is a component of an E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets the alpha subunits of the HIF (hypoxia-inducible factor) transcription factor for destruction in the presence of oxygen. Consequently, tumor cells lacking pVHL overproduce the products of HIF target genes such as vascular endothelial growth factor and transforming growth factor alpha. pVHL has been implicated in a variety of processes that are central to carcinogenesis including cell-cycle control, differentiation, extracellular matrix formation and turnover, and angiogenesis.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.