Ginsenoside-Rg1 mediates a hypoxia-independent upregulation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α to promote angiogenesis

Kar Wah Leung, Hoi Man Ng, Maggie K.S. Tang, Chris K C WONG, Ricky N S WONG, Alice S.T. Wong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-1) is the key transcription regulator for multiple angiogenic factors and is an appealing target. Ginsenoside-Rg1, a nontoxic saponin isolated from the rhizome of Panax ginseng, exhibits potent proangiogenic activity and has the potential to be developed as a new angiotherapeutic agent. However, the mechanisms by which Rg1 promotes angiogenesis are not fully understood. Here, we show that Rg1 is an effective stimulator of HIF-1α under normal cellular oxygen conditions in human umbilical vein endothelial cells. HIF-1α steady-state mRNA was not affected by Rg1. Rather, HIF-1α protein synthesis was stimulated by Rg1. This effect was associated with constitutive activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt and its effector p70 S6 kinase (p70 S6K), but not extracellular-signal regulated kinase 1/2. We further revealed that HIF-1α induction triggered the expression of target genes, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The use of small molecule inhibitors LY294002 or rapamycin to inhibit PI3K/Akt and p70 S6K activities, respectively, resulted in diminished HIF-1α activation and subsequent VEGF expression. RNA interference-mediated knockdown of HIF-1α suppressed Rg1-induced VEGF synthesis and angiogenic tube formation, confirming that the effect was HIF-1α specific. Similarly, the angiogenic phenotype could be reversed by inhibition of PI3K/Akt and p70 S6K. These results define a hypoxia-independent activation of HIF-1α, uncovering a novel mechanism for Rg1 that could play a major role in angiogenesis and vascular remodeling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-522
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cancer Research

User-Defined Keywords

  • Angiogenesis
  • Ginsenoside
  • HIF-1α
  • PI3K/Akt
  • Signaling


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