Pathobiological Pseudohypoxia as a Putative Mechanism Underlying Myelodysplastic Syndromes

Cancer Discov. 2018 Nov;8(11):1438-1457. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-17-1203. Epub 2018 Aug 23.


Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are heterogeneous hematopoietic disorders that are incurable with conventional therapy. Their incidence is increasing with global population aging. Although many genetic, epigenetic, splicing, and metabolic aberrations have been identified in patients with MDS, their clinical features are quite similar. Here, we show that hypoxia-independent activation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1A) signaling is both necessary and sufficient to induce dysplastic and cytopenic MDS phenotypes. The HIF1A transcriptional signature is generally activated in MDS patient bone marrow stem/progenitors. Major MDS-associated mutations (Dnmt3a, Tet2, Asxl1, Runx1, and Mll1) activate the HIF1A signature. Although inducible activation of HIF1A signaling in hematopoietic cells is sufficient to induce MDS phenotypes, both genetic and chemical inhibition of HIF1A signaling rescues MDS phenotypes in a mouse model of MDS. These findings reveal HIF1A as a central pathobiologic mediator of MDS and as an effective therapeutic target for a broad spectrum of patients with MDS.Significance: We showed that dysregulation of HIF1A signaling could generate the clinically relevant diversity of MDS phenotypes by functioning as a signaling funnel for MDS driver mutations. This could resolve the disconnection between genotypes and phenotypes and provide a new clue as to how a variety of driver mutations cause common MDS phenotypes. Cancer Discov; 8(11); 1438-57. ©2018 AACR. See related commentary by Chen and Steidl, p. 1355 This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1333.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 2 Subunit / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / physiology*
  • Metabolome
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / genetics
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / metabolism
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes / pathology*
  • Myeloid-Lymphoid Leukemia Protein / physiology*


  • Core Binding Factor Alpha 2 Subunit
  • HIF1A protein, human
  • Hif1a protein, mouse
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Myeloid-Lymphoid Leukemia Protein
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase
  • Kmt2a protein, mouse