• esophageal carcinoma;
  • hypoxia;
  • hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha;
  • migration and invasion


The goal of this study was to explore the molecular mechanism of hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1 alpha) action on migration and invasion of esophageal carcinoma cells. We used cobalt chloride (CoCl2) to mimic tumor hypoxic microenvironment and analyzed the expressions of E-cadherin, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), and HIF-1 alpha in esophageal carcinoma cells under hypoxia by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and Western blotting. To analyze the function of HIF-1 alpha in Eca109 and TE1 cells, we established stable HIF-1 alpha knockdown cells using small interfering RNA. Blocking effect was detected by Western blotting. The concentrations of MMP-2 protein in the conditioned medium were also determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Wound-healing and cell invasion assay were used to evaluate the migration and invasion of esophageal carcinoma cells. After exposure to hypoxia, expressions of HIF-1 alpha protein in Eca109 and TE1 cells were upregulated, both mRNA and protein levels of E-cadherin were downregulated, and MMP-2 were upregulated (P < 0.05), whereas HIF-1 alpha mRNA had no significant change (P > 0.05). Small interfering RNA could block HIF-1 alpha effectively under hypoxia, then enhanced E-cadherin expression and inhibited MMP-2 expression, respectively. Furthermore, expression of HIF-1 alpha protein was stable even though MMP-2 repressed by BB2516. Compared with that in normoxia, Snail expression was enhanced when Eca109 or TE1 cells exposed to hypoxia. Once HIF-1 alpha blocked, Snail expressions were inhibited accordingly. Wound recovery and the number of invading cells decreased (P < 0.05) after HIF-1 alpha blocked. The hypoxia suppresses E-cadherin expression and enhances MMP-2 expression favoring esophageal carcinoma migration and invasion via HIF-1 alpha activation. Our observations suggest that HIF-1 alpha inhibition might be an effective strategy to weaken the migration and invasion of esophageal carcinoma cells.