Background: Clear-cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer. Although ccRCC is characterized by common recurrent genetic abnormalities, including inactivation of the von Hippel-Lindau (vhl) tumor suppressor gene resulting in stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs), the tumor aggressiveness and outcome of ccRCC is variable. New biomarkers are thus required to improve ccRCC diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutic options. This work aims to investigate the expression of HIF and proteins involved in metabolism and pH regulation. Their correlation to histoprognostic parameters and survival was analyzed.
Methods: ccRCC of 45 patients were analyzed. HIF-1α, HIF-2α, HAF, GLUT1, MCT1, MCT4, CAIX and CAXII expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry in a semi-quantitative and qualitative manner. The GLUT1, MCT1, MCT4, CAIX and CAXII mRNA levels were analyzed in an independent cohort of 43 patients.
Results: A significant correlation was observed between increased GLUT1, MCT1, CAXII protein expression and a high Fuhrman grade in ccRCC patients. Moreover, while HIF-1α, HIF-2α and HAF expression was heterogenous within tumors, we observed and confirmed that HIF-2α co-localized with HAF. We confirmed, in an independent cohort, that GLUT1, MCT1 and CAXII mRNA levels correlated with the Fuhrman grade. Moreover, we demonstrated that the high mRNA level of both MCT1 and GLUT1 correlated with poor prognosis.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates for the first time a link between the aggressiveness of high- Fuhrman grade ccRCC and metabolic reprogramming. It also confirms the role of HIF-2α and HAF in tumor invasiveness. Finally, these results demonstrate that MCT1 and GLUT1 are strong prognostic markers and promising therapeutic targets.