Does endogenous fatty acid metabolism allow cancer cells to sense hypoxia and mediate hypoxic vasodilatation? Characterization of a novel molecular connection between fatty acid synthase (FAS) and hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha)-related expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in cancer cells overexpressing her-2/neu oncogene.J Cell Biochem. 2005 Apr 01; 94(5):857-63.JC
Her-2/neu (erbB-2) oncogene overexpression is associated with increased tumor progression and metastasis. Fatty acid synthase (FAS), the key lipogenic enzyme responsible for the endogenous synthesis of fatty acids, has been shown to be one of the genes regulated by Her-2/neu at the level of transcription, translation, and biosynthetic activity. Interestingly, we recently established that both pharmacological inhibition of FAS activity and silencing of FAS gene expression specifically suppress Her-2/neu oncoprotein expression and tyrosine-kinase activity in breast and ovarian Her-2/neu overexpressors. Unraveling the functional organization of this novel bi-directional molecular connection between Her-2/neu and FAS-dependent neoplastic lipogenesis is a major challenge that the field is only beginning to take on. Considering that Her-2/neu overexpression correlates with increased expression of the hypoxia inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha), which, in a mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-dependent manner, plays a key role in the expression of several genes including cytokines such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), we hypothesized that FAS blockade should result in a concomitant down-regulation of VEGF. Unexpectedly, the specific inhibition of the de novo fatty acid synthesis with the small-molecule inhibitor of FAS activity C75 resulted in a dramatic dose-dependent enhancement (up to 500% increase) of VEGF secretion in Her-2/neu-overexpressing SK-Br3, BT-474, and SKOV3 cancer cells. Concurrently, FAS blockade drastically activated MAPK and promoted further a prominent accumulation of HIF-1alpha in Her-2/neu overexpressors. Moreover, U0126-induced inhibition of MAPK activity completely abolished C75-induced up-regulation of HIF-1alpha expression and VEGF secretion, whereas it did not modulate C75-induced down-regulation of Her-2/neu oncogene. Importantly, RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated silencing of the FAS gene recapitulated C75's effects by up-regulating VEGF secretion, MAPK activation and HIF-1alpha expression. Therefore, it appears that perturbation of cancer-associated endogenous fatty metabolism triggers a "hypoxia-like" (oxygen-independent) condition that actively rescues Her-2/neu-dependent MAPK --> HIP-1alpha --> VEGF cascade. It is tempting to suggest that an intact FAS-catalyzed endogenous fatty acid metabolism is a necessary metabolic adaptation to support the enhanced ability of Her-2/neu-overexpressing cancer cells to survive cellular hypoxia in a HIF-alpha-dependent manner.