HIF-1α Promotes A Hypoxia-Independent Cell Migration

Liyuan Li1, Chikezie O. Madu1, Andrew Lu2, 3, Yi Lu*, 1, 2
1 Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine,
2 Department of Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN;
3 Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA

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© 2010 Li et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Pathology and Department of Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Cancer Research Building, Room 218, 19 South Manassas Street, Memphis, TN 38163, USA; Tel: (901) 448-5436; Fax: (901) 448-5496; E-mail:


Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) is known as a transactivator for VEGF gene promoter. It can be induced by hypoxia. However, no study has been done so far to dissect HIF-1α-mediated effects from hypoxia or VEGF-mediated effects. By using a HIF-1α knockout (HIF-1α KO) cell system in mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells, this study analyzes cell migration and HIF-1α, hypoxia and VEGF activation. A hypoxia-mediated HIF-1α induction and VEGF transactivation were observed: both HIF-1α WT lines had significantly increased VEGF transactivation, as an indicator for HIF-1α induction, in hypoxia compared to normoxia; in contrast, HIF-1α KO line had no increased VEGF transactivation under hypoxia. HIF-1α promotes cell migration: HIF-1α-KO cells had a significantly reduced migration compared to that of the HIF-1α WT cells under both normoxia and hypoxia. The significantly reduced cell migration in HIF-1α KO cells can be partially rescued by the restoration of WT HIF-1α expression mediated by adenoviral-mediated gene transfer. Interestingly, hypoxia has no effect on cell migration: the cells had a similar cell migration rate under hypoxic and normoxic conditions for both HIF-1α WT and HIF-1α KO lines, respectively. Collectively, these data suggest that HIF-1α plays a role in MEF cell migration that is independent from hypoxia-mediated effects.

Keywords: VEGF, cell migration, hypoxia, HIF-1α.