Background: The tumor suppressor homeodomain-interacting protein kinase-2 (HIPK2) by phosphorylating serine 46 (Ser46) is a crucial regulator of p53 apoptotic function. HIPK2 is also a transcriptional co-repressor of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) restraining tumor angiogenesis and chemoresistance. HIPK2 can be deregulated in tumors by several mechanisms including hypoxia. Here, we sought to target hypoxia by restoring HIPK2 function and suppressing HIF-1α, in order to provide evidence for the involvement of both HIPK2 and p53 in counteracting hypoxia-induced chemoresistance. Methodology/Principal Findings: Upon exposure of colon and lung cancer cells to hypoxia, by either low oxygen or cobalt, HIPK2 function was impaired allowing for increased HIF-1α expression and inhibiting the p53-apoptotic response to drug. Cobalt suppressed HIPK2 recruitment onto HIF-1α promoter. Hypoxia induced expression of the p53 target MDM2 that downregulates HIPK2, thus MDM2 inhibition by siRNA restored the HIPK2/p53Ser46 response to drug. Zinc supplementation to hypoxia-treated cells increased HIPK2 protein stability and nuclear accumulation, leading to restoration of HIPK2 binding to HIF-1α promoter, repression of MDR1, Bcl2, and VEGF genes, and activation of the p53 apoptotic response to drug. Combination of zinc and ADR strongly suppressed tumor growth in vivo by inhibiting HIF-1 pathway and upregulating p53 apoptotic target genes. Conclusions/Significance: We show here for the first time that hypoxia-induced HIPK2 deregulation was counteracted by zinc that restored HIPK2 suppression of HIF-1 pathway and reactivated p53 apoptotic response to drug, underscoring the potential use of zinc supplementation in combination with chemotherapy to address hypoxia and improve tumor treatment. © 2009 Nardinocchi et al.
Nardinocchi, L., Puca, R., Sacchi, A., Rechavi, G., Givol, D., & D’Orazi, G. (2009). Targeting hypoxia in cancer cells by restoring homeodomain interacting protein-kinase 2 and p53 activity and suppressing HIF-1α. PLoS ONE, 4(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0006819