J Cancer 2022; 13(1):1-14. doi:10.7150/jca.54402 This issue

Research Paper

HIF1α/HIF2α induces glioma cell dedifferentiation into cancer stem cells through Sox2 under hypoxic conditions

Pan Wang1,2, Sheng Gong2, Bin Liao2, Jinyu Pan2, Junwei Wang2, Dewei Zou2, Lu Zhao2, Shuanglong Xiong3, Yangmin Deng2, Qian Yan2, Nan Wu1,2✉

1. Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing 400016, China
2. Department of Neurosurgery, Chongqing General Hospital, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chongqing 401147, China
3. Department of Oncology, Chongqing University Cancer Hospital, Chongqing 400030, China *Correspondence: Dr. Nan Wu, mailing address: No. 1 Yixueyuan Road, Yuzhong District, Chongqing, 400016, P. R. China. Tel. and Fax: +86 23 63512096. E-mail: wunan881@tmmu.edu.cn

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Wang P, Gong S, Liao B, Pan J, Wang J, Zou D, Zhao L, Xiong S, Deng Y, Yan Q, Wu N. HIF1α/HIF2α induces glioma cell dedifferentiation into cancer stem cells through Sox2 under hypoxic conditions. J Cancer 2022; 13(1):1-14. doi:10.7150/jca.54402. Available from https://www.jcancer.org/v13p0001.htm

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Graphic abstract

Objective: Our previous study showed that glioma stem-like cells could be induced to undergo dedifferentiation under hypoxic conditions, but the mechanism requires further study. HIF1α and HIF2α are the main molecules involved in the response to hypoxia, and Sox2, as a retroelement, plays an important role in the formation of induced pluripotent stem cells, especially in hypoxic microenvironments. Therefore, we performed a series of experiments to verify whether HIF1α, HIF2α and Sox2 regulated glioma cell dedifferentiation under hypoxic conditions.

Materials and methods: Sphere formation by single glioma cells was observed, and CD133 and CD15 expression was compared between the normoxic and hypoxic groups. HIF1α, HIF2α, and Sox2 expression was detected using the CGGA database, and the correlation among HIF1α, HIF2α and Sox2 levels was analyzed. We knocked out HIF1α, HIF2α and Sox2 in glioma cells and cultured them under hypoxic conditions to detect CD133 and CD15 expression. The above cells were implanted into mouse brains to analyze tumor volume and survival time.

Results: New spheres were formed from single glioma cells in 1% O2, but no spheres were formed in 21% O2. The cells cultured in 1% O2 highly expressed CD133 and CD15 and had a lower apoptosis rate. The CGGA database showed HIF1α and HIF2α expression in glioma. Knocking out HIF1α or HIF2α led to a decrease in CD133 and CD15 expression and inhibited sphere formation under hypoxic conditions. Moreover, tumor volume and weight decreased after HIF1α or HIF2α knockout with the same temozolomide treatment. Sox2 was also highly expressed in glioma, and there was a positive correlation between the HIF1α/HIF2α and Sox2 expression levels. Sox2 was expressed at lower levels after HIF1α or HIF2α was knocked out. Then, Sox2 was knocked out, and we found that CD133 and CD15 expression was decreased. Moreover, a lower sphere formation rate, higher apoptosis rate, lower tumor formation rate and longer survival time after temozolomide treatment were detected in the Sox2 knockout cells.

Conclusion: In a hypoxic microenvironment, the HIF1α/HIF2α-Sox2 network induced the formation of glioma stem cells through the dedifferentiation of differentiated glioma cells, thus promoting glioma cell chemoresistance. This study demonstrates that both HIF1α and HIF2α, as genes upstream of Sox2, regulate the malignant progression of glioma through dedifferentiation.

Keywords: glioma stem cells, dedifferentiation, hypoxia, HIF1α/HIF2α, Sox2