Purpose: Hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), the central mediator of the cellular response to low oxygen, functions as a transcription factor for a broad range of genes that provide adaptive responses to oxygen deprivation. HIF-1 is overexpressed in cancer and has become an important therapeutic target in solid tumors. In this study, a novel HIF-1alpha inhibitor was identified and its molecular mechanism was investigated.
Experimental design: Using a HIF-responsive reporter cell-based assay, a 10,000-member natural product-like chemical compound library was screened to identify novel HIF-1 inhibitors. This led us to discover KC7F2, a lead compound with a central structure of cystamine. The effects of KC7F2 on HIF-1 transcription, translation, and protein degradation processes were analyzed.
Results: KC7F2 markedly inhibited HIF-mediated transcription in cells derived from different tumor types, including glioma, breast, and prostate cancers, and exhibited enhanced cytotoxicity under hypoxia. KC7F2 prevented the activation of HIF-target genes such as carbonic anhydrase IX, matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2), endothelin 1, and enolase 1. An investigation into the mechanism of action of KC7F2 showed that it worked through the down-regulation of HIF-1alpha protein synthesis, an effect accompanied by the suppression of the phosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E binding protein 1 and p70 S6 kinase, key regulators of HIF-1alpha protein synthesis.
Conclusion: These results show that KC7F2 is a potent HIF-1 pathway inhibitor and its potential as a cancer therapy agent warrants further study.