Changes in cellular oxygen tension play important roles in physiological processes including development and pathological processes such as tumor promotion. The cellular adaptations to sustained hypoxia are mediated by hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) to regulate downstream target gene expression. With hypoxia, the stabilized HIF-α and aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT, also known as HIF-β) heterodimer bind to hypoxia response elements (HREs) and regulate expression of target genes. Here, we report that WNT11 is induced by hypoxia in many cell types, and that transcription of WNT11 is regulated primarily by HIF-1α. We observed induced WNT11 expression in the hypoxic area of allograft tumors. In addition, in mice bearing orthotopic malignant gliomas, inhibition with bevacizumab of vascular endothelial growth factor, which is an important stimulus for angiogenesis, increased nuclear HIF-1α and HIF-2α, and expression of WNT11. Gain-and loss-of-function approaches revealed that WNT11 stimulates proliferation, migration and invasion of cancer-derived cells, and increases activity of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and 9. Since tumor hypoxia has been proposed to increase tumor aggressiveness, these data suggest WNT11 as a possible target for cancer therapies, especially for tumors treated with antiangiogenic therapy.
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