Fibronectin (FN) is a core matrix protein that assembles to form a dynamic cellular scaffold, frequently perturbed during oncogenic transformation. Tumor hypoxia, characterized by low oxygen concentrations in the microenvironment of most solid tumors has been shown to accelerate FN assembly in fibroblasts and cancer-associated fibroblasts, cell types that produce abundant amounts of FN protein. Nevertheless, FN matrix regulation in epithelial cancer cells during hypoxia remains less well defined. In this study we investigate the assembly of the FN matrix during hypoxia in renal cancer epithelial cells, the cells of origin of renal cell carcinoma (RCC). We show that hypoxia (1% O2) specifically increases matrix disassembly and increases migratory propensity in renal cancer cells. However, HIFα stabilization using hypoxia mimetics, does not recapitulate the effect of hypoxia on FN matrix reorganization or cell migration. Using a combination of knockdown and inhibitor-based approaches, our work characterizes the signaling events that mediate these two disparate changes on the matrix and explores its functional significance on chemotactic cell migration. Our study systematically reexamines the role of hypoxia mimetics as experimental substitutes for hypoxia and provides new findings on HIFα stabilization and the FN matrix in the context of renal cancer.
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