Under conditions of reduced tissue oxygenation, hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) controls many processes, including angiogenesis and cellular metabolism, and also influences cell proliferation and survival decisions. HIF is centrally involved in tumour growth in inherited diseases that give rise to renal cell carcinoma (RCC), such as Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome and tuberous sclerosis complex. In this study, we examined whether HIF is involved in tumour formation of RCC in Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. For this, we analysed a Birt-Hogg-Dubé patient-derived renal tumour cell line (UOK257) that is devoid of the Birt-Hogg-Dubé protein (BHD) and observed high levels of HIF activity. Knockdown of BHD expression also caused a threefold activation of HIF, which was not as a consequence of more HIF1α or HIF2α protein. Transcription of HIF target genes VEGF, BNIP3 and CCND1 was also increased. We found nuclear localization of HIF1α and increased expression of VEGF, BNIP3 and GLUT1 in a chromophobe carcinoma from a Birt-Hogg-Dubé patient. Our data also reveal that UOK257 cells have high lactate dehydrogenase, pyruvate kinase and 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase activity. We observed increased expression of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 (a HIF gene target), which in turn leads to increased phosphorylation and inhibition of pyruvate dehydrogenase. Together with increased protein levels of GLUT1, our data reveal that UOK257 cells favour glycolytic rather than lipid metabolism (a cancer phenomenon termed the 'Warburg effect'). UOK257 cells also possessed a higher expression level of the L-lactate influx monocarboxylate transporter 1 and consequently utilized L-lactate as a metabolic fuel. As a result of their higher dependency on glycolysis, we were able to selectively inhibit the growth of these UOK257 cells by treatment with 2-deoxyglucose. This work suggests that targeting glycolytic metabolism may be used therapeutically to treat Birt-Hogg-Dubé-associated renal lesions.
© 2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited