Gastric cancer grows under a hypoxic environment. HIF-1 α is known to play an important role in controlling the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mitochondria under hypoxic conditions. We previously established HIF-1 αknockdown (KD) cells and control (SC) cells in the 58As9 gastric cancer cell line. In this study, we revealed that KD cells, but not SC cells, induced apoptosis under conditions of hypoxia (1% O2) due to excessive production of ROS. A quantitative RT-PCR analysis demonstrated that the expressions of ten genes, which are involved in the control mechanisms of ROS (including the Warburg effect, mitophagy, electron transport chain [ETC] modification and ROS scavenging), were regulated by HIF-1 α. Moreover, the promotion of glucose uptake by glucose plus insulin (GI) treatment enhanced the apoptotic effect, which was accompanied by further ROS production in hypoxic KD cells. A Western blot analysis showed that the membranous expression of GLUT1 in KD cells was elevated by glucose and/or insulin treatments, indicating that the GI-induced glucose uptake is mediated by the increased translocation of GLUT1 on the cell membrane. Finally, the anti-tumor effect of HIF-1 α knockdown (KD) plus GI was evaluated using a tumor xenograft model, where a hypoxic environment naturally exists. As a result, the GI treatment strongly inhibited the growth of the KD tumors whereby cell apoptosis was highly induced in comparison to the control treatment. In contrast, the growth of the SC tumors expressing HIF-1 α was not affected by the GI treatment. Taken together, the results suggest that HIF-1 α inhibition plusGI may bean ideal therapy, because the apoptosis due to the destruction of ROS homeostasis is specifically induced in gastric cancer that grows under a hypoxic environment, but not in the normal tissue under the aerobic conditions.
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