Hypoxia Promotes Syndecan-3 Expression in the Tumor Microenvironment

Front Immunol. 2020 Sep 30:11:586977. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.586977. eCollection 2020.


The syndecan (Sdc) family is comprised of four members of cell surface molecules (Sdc-1 to 4) with different biological functions. Syndecan-3 (Sdc-3) is known to be mainly expressed in the brain and nervous tissue and plays a key role in development, cell adhesion, and migration. Recent studies point to important roles for Sdc-3 in inflammatory disease, but the patterns of expression and significance of Sdc-3 in cancer remains unexplored. Here we show that Sdc-3 expression is upregulated on several cancer types, especially in solid tumors that are known to be hypoxic. The Cancer Genome Atlas program (TCGA) data demonstrated that Sdc-3 expression in the tumor microenvironment positively correlates with a hypoxia gene signature. To confirm a potential cause-effect, we performed experiments with tumor cell lines showing increased expression upon in vitro exposure to 1% oxygen or dimethyloxalylglycine, an inhibitor of prolyl hydroxylases, indicating that Sdc-3 expression is promoted by hypoxia inducible factors (HIFs). HIF-1α was responsible for this upregulation as confirmed by CRISPR-engineered tumor cells. Using single-cell RNA sequencing data of melanoma patients, we show that Sdc-3 is expressed on tumor associated macrophages, cancer cells, and endothelial cells. Syndecan-3 expression positively correlated with a macrophage gene signature across several TCGA cancer types. In vitro experiments demonstrated that hypoxia (1% oxygen) or treatment with IFN-γ stimulate Sdc-3 expression on RAW-264.7 derived macrophages, linking Sdc-3 expression to a proinflammatory response. Syndecan-3 expression correlates with a better patient overall survival in hypoxic melanoma tumors.

Keywords: cancer immunotherapy; hypoxia; solid tumors; syndecan-3; tumor microenvironment (TME).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Syndecan-3 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / physiology*


  • SDC3 protein, human
  • Syndecan-3