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Open Access Research article

The impact of KRAS mutations on VEGF-A production and tumour vascular network

Agnès Figueras1, Maria Antonia Arbos2, Maria Teresa Quiles2, Francesc Viñals13, Josep Ramón Germà4 and Gabriel Capellà1*

Author Affiliations

1 Translational Research Laboratory, Institut Català d’Oncologia-IDIBELL, Gran Via 199-203, 08908 L’Hospitalet del Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain

2 Institut de Recerca Vall d’Hebron, Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron, Passeig de la Vall d’Hebron 119-129, Barcelona, 08035, Spain

3 Unitat de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular; Departament de Ciències Fisiològiques II, Universitat de Barcelona-IDIBELL, Feixa Llarga s/n, 08908 L’Hospitalet del Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain

4 Department of Medical Oncology, Institut Català d’Oncologia, Gran Via 199-203, 08908 L’Hospitalet del Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain

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BMC Cancer 2013, 13:125  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-125

Published: 18 March 2013

Abstract

Background

The malignant potential of tumour cells may be influenced by the molecular nature of KRAS mutations being codon 13 mutations less aggressive than codon 12 ones. Their metabolic profile is also different, with an increased anaerobic glycolytic metabolism in cells harbouring codon 12 KRAS mutations compared with cells containing codon 13 mutations. We hypothesized that this distinct metabolic behaviour could be associated with different HIF-1α expression and a distinct angiogenic profile.

Methods

Codon13 KRAS mutation (ASP13) or codon12 KRAS mutation (CYS12) NIH3T3 transfectants were analyzed in vitro and in vivo. Expression of HIF-1α, and VEGF-A was studied at RNA and protein levels. Regulation of VEGF-A promoter activity was assessed by means of luciferase assays using different plasmid constructs. Vascular network was assessed in tumors growing after subcutaneous inoculation. Non parametric statistics were used for analysis of results.

Results

Our results show that in normoxic conditions ASP13 transfectants exhibited less HIF-1α protein levels and activity than CYS12. In contrast, codon 13 transfectants exhibited higher VEGF-A mRNA and protein levels and enhanced VEGF-A promoter activity. These differences were due to a differential activation of Sp1/AP2 transcription elements of the VEGF-A promoter associated with increased ERKs signalling in ASP13 transfectants. Subcutaneous CYS12 tumours expressed less VEGF-A and showed a higher microvessel density (MVD) than ASP13 tumours. In contrast, prominent vessels were only observed in the latter.

Conclusion

Subtle changes in the molecular nature of KRAS oncogene activating mutations occurring in tumour cells have a major impact on the vascular strategy devised providing with new insights on the role of KRAS mutations on angiogenesis.

Keywords:
KRAS mutations; HIF-1α; Vascular endothelial growth factor A; VEGF-A promoter; Tumour angiogenesis