Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 and VEGF upregulate CXCR4 in glioblastoma: implications for angiogenesis and glioma cell invasion

Lab Invest. 2006 Dec;86(12):1221-32. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3700482. Epub 2006 Oct 30.


Hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) play a critical role in glioblastoma multiforme (GBMs). CXCR4 is involved in angiogenesis and is upregulated by HIF-1alpha. CXCR4 is a chemokine receptor for stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1)alpha, also known as CXCL12. We hypothesized that CXCR4 would be upregulated by hypoxia in GBMs. First, we investigated the expression of HIF-1alpha and CXCR4 in GBMs. CXCR4 was consistently found colocalized with HIF-1alpha expression in pseudopalisading glioma cells around areas of necrosis. In addition, angiogenic tumor vessels were strongly positive for CXCR4. Next, we tested the in vitro effect of hypoxia and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) on the expression of CXCR4 in glioma cell lines and in human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs). Exposure to hypoxia induced significant expression of CXCR4 and HIF-1alpha in glioma cells, whereas treatment with exogenous VEGF increased CXCR4 expression in HBMECs. We also transfected U87MG glioma cells with an HIF-1alpha construct and observed that CXCR4 was upregulated in these cells even in normoxic conditions. We then used a lentivirus-mediated shRNA expression vector directed against HIF-1alpha. When exposed to hypoxia, infected cells failed to show HIF-1alpha and CXCR4 upregulation. We performed migration assays under normoxic and hypoxic conditions in the presence or absence of AMD3100, a CXCR4 inhibitor. There was a significant increase in the migration of U87MG and LN308 glioma cells in hypoxic conditions, which was inhibited in the presence of AMD3100. These studies demonstrate the critical role played by hypoxia and CXCR4 in glioma cell migration. Based on these studies, we suggest that hypoxia regulates CXCR4 in GBMs at two levels. First, through HIF-1alpha in the pseudopalisading tumor cells themselves and, secondly, by the VEGF-stimulated angiogenic response in HBMECs. We believe this knowledge may lead to a potentially important two-pronged therapy against GBM progression using chemotherapy targeting CXCR4.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Glioblastoma / blood supply
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism*
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*


  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A