Overexpression of the natural antisense hypoxia-inducible factor-1α transcript is associated with malignant pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma
Paragangliomas (PGLs) have widely different metastastic potentials. Two different types of PGLs can be defined by expression profiling. Cluster 1 PGLs exhibit VHL and/or succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) mutations and a pseudohypoxic phenotype. RET and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) mutations occur in cluster 2 tumors characterized by deregulation of the RAS/RAF/MAP kinase signaling cascade. Sporadic PGLs can exhibit either profile. During sustained hypoxia, a natural antisense transcript of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (aHIF) is expressed. The role of aHIF in the metastatic potential of PGL has not yet been investigated. The aim was to test the hypothesis that genotype-specific overexpression of aHIF is associated with an increased metastatic potential. Tumor samples were collected from87 patients with PGL. Quantitative PCR was performed for aHIF, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), aquaporin 3, cytochrome b561, p57Kip2, slit homolog 3, and SDHC. Expression was related to mutation status, benign versus malignant tumors, and metastasis-free survival. We found that both aHIF and VEGF were overexpressed in cluster 1 PGLs and inmetastatic tumors. In contrast, slit homolog 3, p57Kip2, cytochrome b561, and SDHC showed overexpression in non-metastatic tumors, whereas no such difference was observed for aquaporin 3. Patients with higher expression levels of aHIF and VEGF had a significantly decreased metastasis free survival. Higher expression levels of SDHC are correlated with an increased metastasis-free survival. In conclusion, we not only demonstrate a higher expression of VEGF in cluster 1 PGL, fitting a profile of pseudohypoxia and angiogenesis, but also of aHIF. Moreover, overexpression of aHIF and VEGF marks a higher metastatic potential in PGL.