Hypoxia-inducible factors mediate coordinated RhoA-ROCK1 expression and signaling in breast cancer cells

Daniele M. Gilkes, Lisha Xiang, Sun Joo Lee, Pallavi Chaturvedi, Maimon E. Hubbi, Denis Wirtz, Gregg L. Semenza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Overexpression of Rho kinase 1 (ROCK1) and the G protein RhoA is implicated in breast cancer progression, but oncogenic mutations are rare, and the molecular mechanisms that underlie increased ROCK1 and RhoA expression have not been determined. RhoA-bound ROCK1 phosphorylates myosin light chain (MLC), which is required for actin-myosin contractility. RhoA also activates focal adhesion kinase (FAK) signaling. Together, these pathways are critical determinants of the motile and invasive phenotype of cancer cells. We report that hypoxia-inducible factors coordinately activate RhoA and ROCK1 expression and signaling in breast cancer cells, leading to cell and matrix contraction, focal adhesion formation, and motility through phosphorylation of MLC and FAK. Thus, intratumoral hypoxia acts as an oncogenic stimulus by triggering hypoxia-inducible factor → RhoA → ROCK1 → MLC → FAK signaling in breast cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E384-E393
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 21 2014


  • Cytoskeletal reprogramming
  • Metastasis
  • Migration
  • Oxygen
  • Tumor microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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