Hypoxia-induced oxidative stress promotes MUC4 degradation via autophagy to enhance pancreatic cancer cells survival

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43 Scopus citations


Pancreatic cancer (PC) and associated pre-neoplastic lesions have been reported to be hypoxic, primarily due to hypovascular nature of PC. Though the presence of hypoxia under cancerous condition has been associated with the overexpression of oncogenic proteins (MUC1), multiple emerging reports have also indicated the growth inhibitory effects of hypoxia. In spite of being recognized as the top-most differentially expressed and established oncogenic protein in PC, MUC4 regulation in terms of micro-environmental stress has not been determined. Herein, for the first time, we are reporting that MUC4 protein stability is drastically affected in PC, under hypoxic condition in a hypoxia inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α)-independent manner. Mechanistically, we have demonstrated that hypoxia-mediated induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) promotes autophagy by inhibiting pAkt/mTORC1 pathway, one of the central regulators of autophagy. Immunohistofluorescence analyses revealed significant negative correlation (P-value=0.017) between 8-hydroxy guanosine (8-OHG) and MUC4 in primary pancreatic tumors (n=25). Moreover, we found pronounced colocalization between MUC4 and LAMP1/LC3 (microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B-light chain 3) in PC tissues and also observed their negative relationship in their expression pattern, suggesting that areas with high autophagy rate had less MUC4 expression. We also found that hypoxia and ROS have negative impact on overall cell growth and viability, which was partially, though significantly (P<0.05), rescued in the presence of MUC4. Altogether, hypoxia-mediated oxidative stress induces autophagy in PC, leading to the MUC4 degradation to enhance survival, possibly by offering required metabolites to stressed cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5882-5892
Number of pages11
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 10 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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