Cap-dependent translation initiation factor, eIF4E, is the target for Ouabain-mediated inhibition of HIF-1α

Ji Cao, Lingjuan He, Guanyu Lin, Chunqi Hu, Rong Dong, Jun Zhang, Hong Zhu, Yongzhou Hu, Carston R. Wagner, Qiaojun He, Bo Yang

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23 Scopus citations


Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), a heterodimeric transcription factor that mediates the adaptation of tumor cells and tissues to the hypoxic microenvironment, has attracted considerable interest as a potential therapeutic target. Recently, HIF-1α has been recognized as the critical target of cardiac glycosides for cancer therapy, but the molecular mechanism of cardiac glycosides' inhibition of HIF-1α is still poorly understood. In the present study, we observed that neither HIF-1α mRNA levels nor HIF-1α protein degradation are affected by Ouabain. However, Ouabain was found to be associated with the regulation of HIF-1α translation. Basing on in silico, in vitro and ex vivo models of translation processing, further studies revealed that eIF4E plays a critical role in the inhibitory effect of Ouabain on HIF-1α protein synthesis, rather than mTORC1, eIF2α signaling or Na+/K+-ATPase inhibition. Mechanistically, Ouabain directly binds eIF4E, disrupts eIF4E/eIF4G association (200 μM, Inhibit rate = 61 ± 3%) but not the eIF4E/mRNA complex formation (200 μM, Inhibit rate = 18 ± 5%) both in vitro and in cells, thereby inhibiting the intracellular cap-dependent translation. The association between Ouabain and eIF4E not only raises the hope of using cardiac glycosides for cancer therapeutics more rational, but also offers a pharmacologic means for developing novel anti-cancer HIF-1α antagonists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation (No. 81072657 , No. 81273535 and No. 91029745 ); Zhejiang provincial program for the cultivation of high-level innovative health talents.


  • Cancer therapy
  • Hypoxia
  • Hypoxia inducible factor
  • Translation
  • eIF4E


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