Expression of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha and cell cycle proteins in invasive breast cancer are estrogen receptor related

R Bos, P.J. van Diest, P. van der Groep, A. Shvarts, A.E. Greijer, E. van der Wall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background The transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a key regulator of the cellular response to hypoxia. Previous studies showed that concentrations of its subunit HIF-1alpha, as a surrogate for HIF-1 activity, are increased during breast carcinogenesis and can independently predict prognosis in breast cancer. During carcinogenesis, the cell cycle is progressively deregulated, and proliferation rate is a strong prognostic factor in breast cancer. In this study we undertook a detailed evaluation of the relationships between HIF-1alpha and cell cycle-associated proteins.

Methods In a representative estrogen receptor ( ER) group of 150 breast cancers, the expression of HIF-1alpha, vascular endothelial growth factor, the ER, HER-2/neu, Ki-67, cyclin A, cyclin D-1, p21, p53, and Bcl-2 was investigated by immunohistochemistry.

Results High concentrations (5% or more) of HIF-1alpha were associated with increased proliferation as shown by positive correlations with Ki-67 (P <0.001) and the late S-G2-phase protein cyclin A ( P <0.001), but not with the G1-phase protein cyclin D-1. High HIF-1alpha concentrations were also strongly associated with p53 positivity ( P <0.001) and loss of Bcl-2 expression (P = 0.013). No association was found between p21 and HIF-1α (P = 0.105) in the whole group of patients. However, the subgroup of ER-positive cancers was characterized by a strong positive association between HIF-1α and p21 (P = 0.023), and HIF-1α lacked any relation with proliferation.

Conclusion HIF-1α overexpression is associated with increased proliferation, which might explain the adverse prognostic impact of increased concentrations of HIF-1α in invasive breast cancer. In ER-positive tumors, HIF-1α is associated with p21 but not against proliferation. This shows the importance of further functional analysis to unravel the role of HIF-1 in late cell cycle progression, and the link between HIF-1, p21, and ER.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R450-R459
Number of pages10
JournalBreast Cancer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • Bcl-2
  • breast cancer
  • estrogen receptor
  • hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha
  • p53
  • D1


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