Epigenetic regulation of gene expression in cervical cancer cells by the tumor microenvironment.
Evidence is accumulating that the adverse tumor microenvironment both modifies the malignant progression of tumor cells and contributes to chemotherapy and radiation resistance. We hypothesized that some of the effects on malignant progression are mediated through the transcriptional regulation of genes responsive to the stresses of the microenvironment, such as low oxygen or low glucose conditions. To determine epigenetic changes in gene expression that were consistent with that hypothesis, we used an in vitro subtractive hybridization method, representational difference analysis, to identify hypoxia-induced cDNAs from cultured human cervical epithelial cells. We identified 12 induced genes: two novel genes (HIG1 and HIG2), three genes known to be hypoxia-inducible (tissue factor, GAPDH, thioredoxin), and seven genes not previously identified as hypoxia-inducible [HNRNP(a1), ribosomal L7, annexin V, lipocortin 2, Ku(70), PRPP synthase, and acetoacetyl-CoA thiolase]. In cultured cells, HIG1 and HIG2 expression is induced by hypoxia and by glucose deprivation, but their expression is not induced by serum deprivation, UV, or ionizing radiation. The putative HIG1 and HIG2 open reading frames are expressed in cells, as confirmed by epitope tagging. In addition, tumor xenografts derived from human cervical cancer cells display increased expression of HIG1 and HIG2 when they are deprived of oxygen. Taken together, these data suggest a coordinated transcriptional response of eukaryotic cells to microenvironmental stresses found in the solid tumor.