Differential expression of hypoxia-inducible factors related to the invasiveness of epithelial ovarian cancer

Sci Rep. 2021 Nov 25;11(1):22925. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-02400-1.


Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological cancer, and it is frequently diagnosed at advanced stages, with recurrences after treatments. Treatment failure and resistance are due to hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) activated by cancer cells adapt to hypoxia. IGFBP3, which was previously identified as a growth/invasion/metastasis suppressor of ovarian cancer, plays a key role in inhibiting tumor angiogenesis. Although IGFBP3 can effectively downregulate tumor proliferation and vasculogenesis, its effects are only transient. Tumors enter a hypoxic state when they grow large and without blood vessels; then, the tumor cells activate HIFs to regulate cell metabolism, proliferation, and induce vasculogenesis to adapt to hypoxic stress. After IGFBP3 was transiently expressed in highly invasive ovarian cancer cell line and heterotransplant on mice, the xenograft tumors demonstrated a transient growth arrest with de-vascularization, causing tumor cell hypoxia. Tumor re-proliferation was associated with early HIF-1α and later HIF-2α activations. Both HIF-1α and HIF-2α were related to IGFBP3 expressions. In the down-expression of IGFBP3 in xenograft tumors and transfectants, HIF-2α was the major activated protein. This study suggests that HIF-2α presentation is crucial in the switching of epithelial ovarian cancer from dormancy to proliferation states. In highly invasive cells, the cancer hallmarks associated with aggressiveness could be activated to escape from the growth restriction state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / genetics
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Burden
  • Tumor Hypoxia


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • HIF1A protein, human
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • IGFBP3 protein, human
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • endothelial PAS domain-containing protein 1