HIF1α/VEGF Feedback Loop Contributes to 5-Fluorouracil Resistance

Front Pharmacol. 2022 Mar 9:13:851401. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.851401. eCollection 2022.


5-Fluorouracil (5-Fu) is one of the basic drugs in colorectal cancer (CRC) chemotherapy, and its efficacy is mainly limited by the acquisition of drug resistance. However, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, hypoxia inducible factor 1α (HIF1α) was screened for high expression in 5-Fu resistant HCT115 cells, which displayed epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) phenotype. Suppression of HIF1α reversed EMT phenotype, reduced glucose transporter 1 (Glut1) expression, a key molecule mediated drug resistance. Moreover, we unveiled that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) was regulated by HIF1α and mediated HIF1α-maintained malignant phenotype of 5-Fu resistant cells. Further studies verified that AKT/GSK3β signaling was activated in resistant cells and controlled HIF1α expression. Interestingly, we demonstrated that VEGF could feedback up-regulate HIF1α via AKT/GSK3β signaling. Clinically, HIF1α and VEGF were high expressed and associated with survival and prognosis in CRC patients. In conclusion, our findings proposed that HIF1α/VEGF feedback loop contributed to 5-Fu resistance, which might be potential therapeutic targets.

Keywords: Akt/GSK3β; EMT; GLUT1; HIF1α; VEGF; drug resistance.