Role of Fam60a in the Regulation of HIF-2α and Determination of Stem Cell Fate

  • John Biddlestone

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Hypoxia (low tissue oxygenation) is an important signalling cue for many cell types. The study of its effects has direct relevance to surgery since hypoxic gradients are generated with every cut. On a cellular level, changes in molecular oxygen are sensed by the Hypoxia-Inducible Factors (HIFs). The HIFs are a family of transcription factors that are master regulators of over 100 genes and can effect changes in multiple cellular processes including migration, survival and differentiation. The broad nature of the response to hypoxia means that study of the HIF system is also important in cancer; where many tumour cells have found ways of subverting the HIF response to ensure their continued growth and survival. This thesis explores the role of hypoxia and the HIF system in the regulation of migration, survival and differentiation in both cancer and stem cells. The first experimental chapter examines the role of hypoxia and the HIF system in the regulation of migration and three-dimensional organisation in several cancer cell lines. Using biochemical and functional assays, the HIF system is shown to exert a pleiotropic effect across a panel of cancer cell lines. In particular, HIF 1α is shown to activate proliferation in a prostate cancer cell line in findings that may be useful to inform future clinical strategies for the management of this disease. In the second experimental chapter, the first epigenetic mechanism involving histone modification for the specific regulation of HIF 2α expression is characterised. Here the family with sequence similarity 60, member A (Fam60a) protein is shown to repress expression of the HIF 2α gene through its association with the class 1 Sin3-HDAC co-repressor complex, achieving specificity by co-operation with the SP1 transcription factor. This novel mechanism is demonstrated to be important in the regulation of the basal expression of HIF 2α. Modification of HIF 2α expression through this mechanism is shown to alter cell migration, three dimensional organisation and angiogenesis in vitro. The clinical importance of these findings is demonstrated in a series of 45 patients suffering from colorectal cancer of known stage. In this cohort, the reciprocal relationship between Fam60a and HIF 2α is maintained, and both are identified as potential novel biomarkers for the development of this disease. In the final experimental chapter, the role of hypoxia in the regulation of differentiation is explored. These effects are documented in mesenchymal progenitors primarily derived from human fat. Here, hypoxia is shown to regulate differentiation in a context-dependent manner, promoting osteogenic and retarding adipose and neural differentiation in-vitro. The roles of Fam60a and HIF 2α are explored in this system. These data may be useful in optimising future surgical engraftment of these cells for regenerative purposes.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsCancer Research UK
    SupervisorSonia Rocha (Supervisor)


    • Cancer research
    • Fam60a
    • Mesenchymal stem cell
    • Hypoxia
    • HIF 2α

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