mTORC1 drives HIF-1α and VEGF-A signalling via multiple mechanisms involving 4E-BP1, S6K1 and STAT3

Oncogene. 2015 Apr 23;34(17):2239-50. doi: 10.1038/onc.2014.164. Epub 2014 Jun 16.


Recent clinical trials using rapalogues in tuberous sclerosis complex show regression in volume of typically vascularised tumours including angiomyolipomas and subependymal giant cell astrocytomas. By blocking mechanistic/mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signalling, rapalogue efficacy is likely to occur, in part, through suppression of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) and vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs). We show that rapamycin reduces HIF-1α protein levels, and to a lesser extent VEGF-A levels, in renal cystadenoma cells in a Tsc2+/- mouse model. We established that mTORC1 drives HIF-1α protein accumulation through enhanced transcription of HIF-1α mRNA, a process that is blocked by either inhibition or knockdown of signal transducer and activation of transcription 3 (STAT3). Furthermore, we demonstrated that STAT3 is directly phosphorylated by mTORC1 on Ser727 during hypoxia, promoting HIF-1α mRNA transcription. mTORC1 also regulates HIF-1α synthesis on a translational level via co-operative regulation of both initiation factor 4E-binding protein 1 (4E-BP1) and ribosomal protein S6 kinase-1 (S6K1), whereas HIF-1α degradation remains unaffected. We therefore proposed that mTORC1 drives HIF-1α synthesis in a multifaceted manner through 4E-BP1/eIF4E, S6K1 and STAT3. Interestingly, we observed a disconnect between HIF-1α protein levels and VEGF-A expression. Although both S6K1 and 4E-BP1 regulate HIF-1α translation, VEGF-A is primarily under the control of 4E-BP1/eIF4E. S6K1 inhibition reduces HIF-1α but not VEGF-A expression, suggesting that mTORC1 mediates VEGF-A expression via both HIF-1α-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Our work has important implications for the treatment of vascularised tumours, where mTORC1 acts as a central mediator of STAT3, HIF-1α, VEGF-A and angiogenesis via multiple signalling mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cell Hypoxia / genetics
  • Cystadenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Cystadenocarcinoma / metabolism*
  • Cystadenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factors
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / genetics
  • Kidney Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Multiprotein Complexes / genetics
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism*
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 90-kDa / genetics
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 90-kDa / metabolism*
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Eif4ebp1 protein, mouse
  • Eukaryotic Initiation Factors
  • Hif1a protein, mouse
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Stat3 protein, mouse
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • vascular endothelial growth factor A, mouse
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Complex 1
  • Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases, 90-kDa
  • Rps6ka1 protein, mouse