Individuals with hemizygous germline fumarate hydratase (FH) mutations are predisposed to renal cancer. These tumors predominantly exhibit functional inactivation of the remaining wild-type allele, implicating FH inactivation as a tumor-promoting event. Hypoxia-inducible factors are expressed in many cancers and are increased in clear cell renal carcinomas. Under normoxia, the HIFs are labile due to VHL-dependent proteasomal degradation, but stabilization occurs under hypoxia due to inactivation of HIF prolyl hydroxylase (HPH), which prevents HIF hydroxylation and VHL recognition. We demonstrate that FH inhibition, together with elevated intracellular fumarate, coincides with HIF upregulation. Further, we show that fumarate acts as a competitive inhibitor of HPH. These data delineate a novel fumarate-dependent pathway for regulating HPH activity and HIF protein levels. Additionally, we demonstrate that inactivating mutations of FH in an HLRCC-derived cell line result in glucose-mediated generation of cellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) and ROS-dependent HIF-1alpha stabilization. Further, we have found that stable knockdown of FH in immortalized renal epithelial cells results in ROS-dependent HIF-1alpha stabilization. These data reveal that the obligate glycolytic switch present in HLRCC is critical to HIF stabilization via ROS generation. We have also shown that the obligate glycolytic nature of these cells adicts them to glucose and to upregulated HSF1 transcriptional activity. We have identified a natural product, englerin A, with unique activity against kidney cancer, as an inhibitor of insulin signaling and glucose uptake in these cells. We have shown that the mechanism underlying this activity of englerin A involves activation of protein kinase C delta to phosphorylate HSF1 and IRS1.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
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National Cancer Institute Division of Basic Sciences
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