Research Papers:

Hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha as a therapeutic target in multiple myeloma

Enrica Borsi _, Giulia Perrone, Carolina Terragna, Marina Martello, Angela F Dico, Giancarlo Solaini, Alessandra Baracca, Gianluca Sgarbi, Gianandrea Pasquinelli, Sabrina Valente, Elena Zamagni, Paola Tacchetti, Giovanni Martinelli and Michele Cavo

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:1779-1792. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.1736

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Enrica Borsi1,*, Giulia Perrone2,*, Carolina Terragna1, Marina Martello1, Angela F. Dico1, Giancarlo Solaini3, Alessandra Baracca3, Gianluca Sgarbi3, Gianandrea Pasquinelli1, Sabrina Valente1, Elena Zamagni1, Paola Tacchetti1, Giovanni Martinelli1, Michele Cavo 1

1 Department of Experimental Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine (DIMES), “L. & A. Seràgnoli”, Bologna University School of Medicine, S. Orsola’s University Hospital, Italy

2 Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Hematology Department, Via Venezian 1, Milano, Italy

3 Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, University of Bologna, Via Irnerio 48, Bologna, Italy

* These authors contributed equally to this work.


Enrica Borsi, email:

Keywords: HIF-1α, Multiple Myeloma, Cell cycle, Mitochondria, Warburg effect.

Received: December 23, 2013 Accepted: January 21, 2014 Published: January 23, 2014


The increasing importance of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) in tumorigenesis raises the possibility that agents which specifically inhibit this transcription factor, would provide significant therapeutic benefit. The constitutive expression of HIF-1α in about 35% of Multiple Myeloma (MM) patients suggests HIF-1α suppression might be part of a therapeutic strategy. Accordingly, we explored the effect of EZN-2968, a small 3rd generation antisense oligonucleotide against HIF-1α, in a panel of MM cell lines and primary patients samples. Here, we demonstrated that EZN-2968 is highly specific for HIF-1α mRNA and that exposure of MM cells to EZN-2968 resulted in an efficient and homogeneous loading of the cells showing a long lasting low HIF-1α protein level. In MM cells, HIF-1α suppression induced a permanent cell cycle arrest by prolonging S-phase through cyclin A modulation and in addition it induced a mild apoptotic cell death. Moreover, HIF-1α suppression caused a metabolic shift that leaded to increased production of ATP by oxidative phosphorylation (i.e. Warburg effect reversion), that was confirmed by the observed mitochondrial membrane potential decrease. These results show that HIF-1α is an important player in MM homeostasis and that its inhibition by small antisense oligonucleotides provides a rationale for novel therapeutic strategy to improving MM treatment.

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