Testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT) generally respond well to chemotherapy, but tumors that express low levels of the transcription factor OCT4 are associated with chemoresistance and poor prognosis. Hypoxia is known to induce drug resistance in TGCTs; however, the mechanistic basis for reduced expression of OCT4 and drug resistance is unclear. Here we show that hypoxia reduces OCT4 levels and increases the resistance of embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells to cisplatin and bleomycin. Furthermore, we show that the loss of OCT4 expression under hypoxia can be triggered by sumoylation, which was regulated by SUMO1 and the SUMO1 peptidase SENP1. Under hypoxic conditions, overexpression of SUMO1gg (the active form of SUMO1) not only increased the level of sumoylated OCT4 (Su-OCT4), but also decreased the stability of OCT4 protein. In addition, overexpression of SENP1 reduced the Su-OCT4 level induced by SUMO1gg overexpression, thereby maintaining OCT4 levels and enhancing chemosensitivity. Mechanistic investigations revealed that OCT4 sumoylation occurred at K123, as overexpression of an OCT4-K123R mutant effectively reduced the level of Su-OCT4 under hypoxic conditions. Taken together, our results showed that hypoxia reduces OCT4 expression levels in ECs to increase drug resistance and that these effects could be countered to ablate the suppressive effects of hypoxia on chemosensitivity. Our findings also highlight SENP1 as a potential therapeutic target for drug resistant TGCTs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4963-4973
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Research
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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