Hypoxia-inducible factors regulate pluripotency factor expression by ZNF217-and ALKBH5-mediated modulation of RNA methylation in breast cancer cells

Chuanzhao Zhang, Wanqing Iris Zhi, Haiquan Lu, Debangshu Samanta, Ivan Chen, Edward Gabrielson, Gregg L. Semenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Exposure of breast cancer cells to hypoxia increases the percentage of breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs), which are required for tumor initiation and metastasis, and this response is dependent on the activity of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). We previously reported that exposure of breast cancer cells to hypoxia induces the ALKBH5-mediated demethylation of N6-methyladenosine (m6A) in NANOG mRNA leading to increased expression of NANOG, which is a pluripotency factor that promotes BCSC specification. Here we report that exposure of breast cancer cells to hypoxia also induces ZNF217-dependent inhibition of m6A methylation of mRNAs encoding NANOG and KLF4, which is another pluripotency factor that mediates BCSC specification. Although hypoxia induced the BCSC phenotype in all breast-cancer cell lines analyzed, it did so through variable induction of pluripotency factors and ALKBH5 or ZNF217. However, in every breast cancer line, the hypoxic induction of pluripotency factor and ALKBH5 or ZNF217 expression was HIF-dependent. Immunohistochemistry revealed that expression of HIF-1α and ALKBH5 was concordant in all human breast cancer biopsies analyzed. ALKBH5 knockdown in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells significantly decreased metastasis from breast to lungs in immunodeficient mice. Thus, HIFs stimulate pluripotency factor expression and BCSC specification by negative regulation of RNA methylation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64527-64542
Number of pages16
JournalOncotarget
Volume7
Issue number40
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Keywords

  • Breast cancer stem cells
  • Hypoxia
  • Metastasis
  • N-methyladenosine
  • Pluripotency factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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