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Role of hCG in Vasculogenic Mimicry in OVCAR-3 Ovarian Cancer Cell Line
  1. Min Su, MD, PhD*,
  2. Weiwei Wei, MSc*,
  3. Xiangxiang Xu, MSc*,
  4. Xiaoying Wang, MSc,
  5. Caoyi Chen, MSc,
  6. Li Su, MSc and
  7. Yuquan Zhang, MD, PhD*
  1. *Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University,
  2. Immunology Laboratory of Nantong University, and
  3. Department of Genetics, College of Life Sciences, Nantong University, People's Republic of China.
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Yuquan Zhang, MD, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University, 20 Xisi Rd, Nantong 226001, People's Republic of China. E-mail: zhangyuquan2011{at}, sumin_nt{at}


Objectives: Vasculogenic mimicry (VM) is induced by hypoxia in 3-dimensional culture of ovarian cancer cells. By using this 3D model system, we explored the expression of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and its effects on VM formation in ovarian cancer cell line OVCAR-3 both under normoxic and hypoxic conditions.

Methods: Vasculogenic mimicry was identified by morphological observation and detection of vascular cell marker expressed by OVCAR-3. Potential formation of tumor channels was observed by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. Expression of vascular cell marker CD31, vascular endothelial growth factor, and Factor VIII were detected by flow cytometry, immunochemistry, and Western blot. Expression of hCG was investigated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, chemiluminescence immunoassay, real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and Western blot. Expression of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) was detected by real-time PCR, Western blot, and blocked by small interference RNA. Incubation of OVCAR-3 with recombinant hCG was used to evaluate its effect on VM formation. The specificity of the effect of hCG was assessed by inhibition with the neutralizing anti-hCG antibody.

Results: OVCAR-3 cells formed vessel-like network structures and expressed vascular marker significantly under hypoxia in 3D. The expression level of hCG under hypoxia was significantly higher than that under normoxia. Attenuating hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α expression via small interference RNA resulted in a significantly decreased hCG expression in OVCAR-3, which indicated that the effect of hypoxia on hCG expression was mediated through HIF-1α. Treatment of OVCAR-3 with 5000 mU/mL hCG resulted in the presence of tumor cell-lined vasculature and significant elevation in vascular marker expression, even under normoxia. Expression level of vascular marker and HIF-1α in OVCAR-3 increased in response to hCG treatment in a dose-dependent manner. The effect of hCG was inhibited by the neutralizing anti-hCG antibody.

Conclusions: Human chorionic gonadotropin has the potential to induce VM in OVCAR-3. Human chorionic gonadotropin might have synergistic hypoxia-induced effect on vascular marker and HIF-1α expression.

  • Ovarian cancer
  • HCG
  • Vasculogenic mimicry
  • Hypoxia
  • HIF-1α

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  • This work is supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30801226).

  • Weiwei Wei, MSc, and Min Su, MD, PhD, equally contributed to this article.

  • Current address of Xiangxiang Xu is Suzhou Municipal Hospital, Jiangsu, People's Republic of China.

  • The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

  • Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal’s Web site (