Overexpression of von Hippel-Lindau protein synergizes with doxorubicin to suppress hepatocellular carcinoma in mice

J Hepatol. 2011 Aug;55(2):359-68. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2010.10.043. Epub 2010 Dec 17.


Background & aims: Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) and nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) regulate genes involved in carcinogenesis and progression of cancers including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) protein (pVHL) targets HIFα subunits for destruction and participates in modulating the activity of NF-κB. The present study aimed to investigate whether the overexpression of pVHL synergizes with doxorubicin in the treatment of HCC.

Methods: Overexpression of pVHL was induced by infecting mouse HCC Hepa1-6 and H22 cells, or injecting subcutaneous Hepa1-6 tumors in C57BL/c mice, with adenoviral vectors encoding mouse VHL gene. Cell proliferation, apoptosis, tumoral angiogenesis, and gene expression and DNA-binding activity of NF-κB were examined. The therapeutic effects of pVHL were also evaluated in orthotopic Hepa1-6 tumors by intraportal delivery of Ad-VHL.

Results: Ad-VHL enhanced the anti-tumor activity of doxorubicin by inhibiting cell proliferation, and causing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. The Ad-VHL infection downregulated HIF-1α and HIF-2α expression, and inhibited NF-κB activity and the expression of genes involved in apoptosis, proliferation, angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis. Injection of Ad-VHL into HCC tumors augmented doxorubicin-induced suppression of tumor growth by inhibiting cell proliferation and tumor angiogenesis, and by inducing cell apoptosis. Effects on the expression of HIFαs, activity of NF-κB, and their downstream genes were in accordance with the in vitro findings. Intraportal injection of Ad-VHL enhanced the efficacy of doxorubicin to suppress the growth of orthotopic liver tumors.

Conclusions: By targeting HIF and NF-κB, overexpression of pVHL enhances the efficacy of doxorubicin, and warrants consideration as a potential therapeutic strategy for treating HCC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Apoptosis
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Down-Regulation
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage*
  • Gene Expression
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / therapy*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein / genetics*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Hif1a protein, mouse
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • NF-kappa B
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • endothelial PAS domain-containing protein 1
  • Doxorubicin
  • Von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein