Background: Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a vascular neoplasm characterized by the dysregulated expression of angiogenic and inflammatory cytokines. The driving force of the KS lesion, the KSHV-infected spindle cell, secretes elevated levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), essential for KS development. However, the origin of VEGF in this tumor remains unclear. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we report that the KSHV G protein-coupled receptor (vGPCR) upregulates VEGF in KS through an intricate paracrine mechanism. The cytokines secreted by the few vGPCR-expressing tumor cells activate in neighboring cells multiple pathways (including AKT, ERK, p38 and IKKβ) that, in turn, converge on TSC1/2, promoting mTOR activation, HIF upregulation, and VEGF secretion. Conditioned media from vGPCR-expressing cells lead to an mTOR-dependent increase in HIF-1α and HIF-2α protein levels and VEGF upregulation. In a mouse allograft model for KS, specific inhibition of the paracrine activation of mTOR in non-vGPCR-expressing cells was sufficient to inhibit HIF upregulation in these cells, and abolished the ability of the vGPCR-expressing cells to promote tumor formation in vivo. Similarly, pharmacologic inhibition of HIF in this model blocked VEGF secretion and also lead to tumor regression. Conclusions/Significance: Our findings provide a compelling explanation for how the few tumor cells expressing vGPCR can contribute to the dramatic amplification of VEGF secretion in KS, and further provide a molecular mechanism for how cytokine dysregulation in KS fuels angiogenesis and tumor development. These data further suggest that activation of HIF by vGPCR may be a vulnerable target for the treatment of patients with KS.
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