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1.  Identification of Chemical Compounds that Induce HIF-1α Activity 
Toxicological Sciences  2009;112(1):153-163.
Cellular metabolism depends on the availability of oxygen and the major regulator of oxygen homeostasis is hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), a highly conserved transcription factor that plays an essential role in cellular and systemic homeostatic responses to hypoxia. HIF-1 is a heterodimeric transcription factor composed of hypoxia-inducible HIF-1α and constitutively expressed HIF-1β. Under hypoxic conditions, the two subunits dimerize, allowing translocation of the HIF-1 complex to the nucleus where it binds to hypoxia-response elements (HREs) and activates expression of target genes implicated in angiogenesis, cell growth, and survival. The HIF-1 pathway is essential to normal growth and development, and is involved in the pathophysiology of cancer, inflammation, and ischemia. Thus, there is considerable interest in identifying compounds that modulate the HIF-1 signaling pathway. To assess the ability of environmental chemicals to stimulate the HIF-1 signaling pathway, we screened a National Toxicology Program collection of 1408 compounds using a cell-based β-lactamase HRE reporter gene assay in a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) format. Twelve active compounds were identified. These compounds were tested in a confirmatory assay for induction of vascular endothelial growth factor, a known hypoxia target gene, and confirmed compounds were further tested for their ability to mimic the effect of a reduced-oxygen environment on hypoxia-regulated promoter activity. Based on this testing strategy, three compounds (o-phenanthroline, iodochlorohydroxyquinoline, cobalt sulfate heptahydrate) were confirmed as hypoxia mimetics, whereas two compounds (7-diethylamino-4-methylcoumarin and 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracence) were found to interact with HIF-1 in a manner different from hypoxia. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of qHTS in combination with secondary assays for identification of HIF-1α inducers and for distinguishing among inducers based on their pattern of activated hypoxic target genes. Identification of environmental compounds having HIF-1α activation activity in cell-based assays may be useful for prioritizing chemicals for further testing as hypoxia-response inducers in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2910898  PMID: 19502547
cobalt sulfate heptahydrate; 7-diethylamino-4-methylcoumarin; 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracence; HIF-1α; inducers; iodochlorohydroxyquinoline; NTP 1408 compound library; o-phenanthroline; qHTS
2.  Hypoxia Inducible Factor 3α Plays a Critical Role in Alveolarization and Distal Epithelial Cell Differentiation during Mouse Lung Development 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e57695.
Lung development occurs under relative hypoxia and the most important oxygen-sensitive response pathway is driven by Hypoxia Inducible Factors (HIF). HIFs are heterodimeric transcription factors of an oxygen-sensitive subunit, HIFα, and a constitutively expressed subunit, HIF1β. HIF1α and HIF2α, encoded by two separate genes, contribute to the activation of hypoxia inducible genes. A third HIFα gene, HIF3α, is subject to alternative promoter usage and splicing, leading to three major isoforms, HIF3α, NEPAS and IPAS. HIF3α gene products add to the complexity of the hypoxia response as they function as dominant negative inhibitors (IPAS) or weak transcriptional activators (HIF3α/NEPAS). Previously, we and others have shown the importance of the Hif1α and Hif2α factors in lung development, and here we investigated the role of Hif3α during pulmonary development. Therefore, HIF3α was conditionally expressed in airway epithelial cells during gestation and although HIF3α transgenic mice were born alive and appeared normal, their lungs showed clear abnormalities, including a post-pseudoglandular branching defect and a decreased number of alveoli. The HIF3α expressing lungs displayed reduced numbers of Clara cells, alveolar epithelial type I and type II cells. As a result of HIF3α expression, the level of Hif2α was reduced, but that of Hif1α was not affected. Two regulatory genes, Rarβ, involved in alveologenesis, and Foxp2, a transcriptional repressor of the Clara cell specific Ccsp gene, were significantly upregulated in the HIF3α expressing lungs. In addition, aberrant basal cells were observed distally as determined by the expression of Sox2 and p63. We show that Hif3α binds a conserved HRE site in the Sox2 promoter and weakly transactivated a reporter construct containing the Sox2 promoter region. Moreover, Hif3α affected the expression of genes not typically involved in the hypoxia response, providing evidence for a novel function of Hif3α beyond the hypoxia response.
PMCID: PMC3581546  PMID: 23451260
3.  Epstein-Barr Virus Latent Membrane Protein 1 Induces Synthesis of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1α 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(12):5223-5234.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is a heterodimeric basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor composed of HIF-1α and HIF-1β that is the central regulator of responses to hypoxia. The specific binding of HIF-1 to the hypoxia-responsive element (HRE) induces the transcription of genes that respond to hypoxic conditions, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Here we report that expression of HIF-1α is increased in diverse Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-infected type II and III cell lines, which express EBV latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1), the principal EBV oncoprotein, as well as other latency proteins, but not in the parental EBV-negative cell lines. We show first that transfection of an LMP1 expression plasmid into Ad-AH cells, an EBV-negative nasopharyngeal epithelial cell line, induces synthesis of HIF-1α protein without increasing its stability or mRNA level. The mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase inhibitor PD98059 markedly reduces induction of HIF-1α by LMP1. Catalase, an H2O2 scavenger, strongly suppresses LMP1-induced production of H2O2, which results in a decrease in the expression of HIF-1α induced by LMP1. Inhibition of the NF-κB, c-jun N-terminal kinase, p38 MAPK, and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase pathways did not affect HIF-1α expression. Moreover, LMP1 induces HIF-1 DNA binding activity and upregulates HRE and VEGF promoter transcriptional activity. Finally, LMP1 increases the appearance of VEGF protein in extracellular fluids; induction of VEGF is suppressed by PD98059 or catalase. These results suggest that LMP1 increases HIF-1 activity through induction of HIF-1α protein expression, which is controlled by p42/p44 MAPK activity and H2O2. The ability of EBV, and specifically its major oncoprotein, LMP1, to induce HIF-1α along with other invasiveness and angiogenic factors reported previously discloses additional oncogenic properties of this tumor virus.
PMCID: PMC419879  PMID: 15169887
4.  Effects of 12 metal ions on iron regulatory protein 1 (IRP-1) and hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α) and HIF-regulated genes 
Toxicology and applied pharmacology  2006;213(3):245-255.
Several metal ions that are carcinogenic affect cellular iron homeostasis by competing with iron transporters or iron-regulated enzymes. Some metal ions can mimic a hypoxia response in cells under normal oxygen tension, and induce expression of HIF-1α-regulated genes. This study investigated whether 12 metal ions altered iron homeostasis in human lung carcinoma A549 cells as measured by an activation of IRP-1 and ferritin level. We also studied hypoxia signaling by measuring HIF-1α protein levels, hypoxia response element (HRE)-driven luciferase reporter activity, and Cap43 protein level (an HIF-1α responsive gene). Our results show the following: (i) Ni(II), Co(II), V(V), Mn(II), and to a lesser extent As(III) and Cu(II) activated the binding of IRP-1 to IRE after 24 h, while the other metal ions had no effect; (ii) 10 of 12 metal ions induced HIF-1α protein but to strikingly different degrees. Two of these metal ions, Al(III) and Cd(II), did not induce HIF-1α protein; however, as indicated below, only Ni(II), Co (II), and to lesser extent Mn(II) and V(V) activated HIF-1α-dependent transcription. The combined effects of both [Ni(II) + As(III)] and [Ni(II) + Cr(VI)] on HIF-1α protein were synergistic; (iii) Addition of Fe(II) with Ni(II), Co(II), and Cr(VI) attenuated the induction of HIF-1α after 4 h treatment; (iv) Ni(II), Co(II), and Mn(II) significantly decrease ferritin level after 24 h exposure; (v) Ni(II), Co(II), V (V), and Mn(II) activated HRE reporter gene after 20 h treatment; (vi) Ni(II), Co(II), V(V), and Mn(II) increased the HIF-1-dependent Cap43 protein level after 24 h treatment. In conclusion, only Ni (II), Co (II), and to a lesser extent Mn(II) and V(V) significantly stabilized HIF-1α protein, activated IRP, decreased the levels of ferritin, induced the transcription of HIF-dependent reporter, and increased the expression of Cap43 protein levels (HIF-dependent gene). The mechanism for the significant stabilization and elevation of HIF-1α protein which drives these other parameters was previously shown by us and others to involve a loss of cellular Fe as well as inhibition of HIF-1α-dependent prolyl hydroxylases which target the binding of VHL ubiquitin ligase and degrade HIF-1α. Even though there were small effects of some of the other metals on IRP and HIF-1α, downstream effects of HIF-1α activation and therefore robust hypoxia signaling were only observed with Ni(II), Co(II), and to much lesser extents with Mn(II) and V(V) in human A549 lung cells. It is of interest that the metal ions that were most effective in activating hypoxia signaling were the ones that were poor inducers of metallothionein protein and also decreased Ferritin levels, since both of these proteins can bind metal ions and protect the cell against toxicity in human lung cells. It is important to study effects of these metals in human lung cells since this represents a major route of human environmental and occupational exposure to these metal ions.
PMCID: PMC2965073  PMID: 16386771
Metal ions; IRP-1; HIF-1α; HRE; Cap43
5.  Development of a Novel Anti-HIF-1α Screening System Coupled with Biochemical and Biological Validation for Rapidly Selecting Potent Anti-Cancer Compounds 
Journal of Cancer  2014;5(6):417-424.
Breast cancer (BCa) is the most diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the American women. Adaptation to the hypoxic environment seen in solid tumors is critical for tumor cell survival and growth. The activation of hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α), an important master transcriptional factor that is induced and stabilized by intratumoral hypoxia, stimulates a group of HIF-1α-regulated genes including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), leading tumor cells towards malignant progression. Therefore, a promising therapeutic approach to cancer treatment is to target HIF-1α. The goal of this project was to develop and validate a screening system coupled with secondary screen/validation process that has the capability to screen large numbers of potential anti-cancer small-molecule compounds based on their anti-HIF-1α activities. Breast cancer MDA-231 cells were used as the model to select potent anti-HIF-1α compounds by their abilities to inhibit transactivation of a VEGF promoter fused to a luciferase reporter gene under hypoxia. Positive compounds were then validated by a series of assays that confirm compounds' anti-HIF-1α activities including measurement of HIF-1α downstream VEGF gene expression and angiogenic ability of BCa cells. Results of our pilot screening demonstrate that this prototype screening coupled with validation system can effectively select highly potent anti-HIF-1α agents from the compound library, suggesting that this prototype screen system has the potential to be developed into a high-throughput screen (HTS) coupled with automated validation process for the screening and identification of novel and effective anti-cancer drugs based on anti-HIF-1α mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4026995  PMID: 24847382
HIF-1α; VEGF; Breast cancer
6.  Hypoxia Up-Regulates Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1α Transcription by Involving Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase and Nuclear Factor κB in Pulmonary Artery Smooth Muscle Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(12):4691-4697.
The oxygen sensitive α-subunit of the hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a major trigger of the cellular response to hypoxia. Although the posttranslational regulation of HIF-1α by hypoxia is well known, its transcriptional regulation by hypoxia is still under debate. We, therefore, investigated the regulation of HIF-1α mRNA in response to hypoxia in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells. Hypoxia rapidly enhanced HIF-1α mRNA levels and HIF-1α promoter activity. Furthermore, inhibition of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT but not extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 pathway blocked the hypoxia-dependent induction of HIF-1α mRNA and HIF-1α promoter activity, suggesting involvement of a PI3K/AKT-regulated transcription factor. Interestingly, hypoxia also induced nuclear factor-κB (NFκB) nuclear translocation and activity. In line, expression of the NFκB subunits p50 and p65 enhanced HIF-1α mRNA levels, whereas blocking of NFκB by an inhibitor of nuclear factor-κB attenuated HIF-1α mRNA induction by hypoxia. Reporter gene assays revealed the presence of an NFκB site within the HIF-1α promoter, and mutation of this site abolished induction by hypoxia. In line, gel shift analysis and chromatin immunoprecipitation confirmed binding of p50 and p65 NFκB subunits to the HIF-1α promoter under hypoxia. Together, these findings provide a novel mechanism in which hypoxia induces HIF-1α mRNA expression via the PI3K/AKT pathway and activation of NFκB.
PMCID: PMC2096613  PMID: 17898080
7.  Regulation of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1α Expression and Function by the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(20):7004-7014.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is a heterodimeric transcription factor containing an inducibly expressed HIF-1α subunit and a constititutively expressed HIF-1β subunit. Under hypoxic conditions, the HIF-1α subunit accumulates due to a decrease in the rate of proteolytic degradation, and the resulting HIF-1α-HIF-1β heterodimers undergo posttranslational modifications that promote transactivation. Recent studies suggest that amplified signaling through phosphoinositide 3-kinase, and its downstream target, mTOR, enhances HIF-1-dependent gene expression in certain cell types. In the present study, we have explored further the linkage between mTOR and HIF-1 in PC-3 prostate cancer cells treated with hypoxia or the hypoxia mimetic agent, CoCl2. Pretreatment of PC-3 cells with the mTOR inhibitor, rapamycin, inhibited both the accumulation of HIF-1α and HIF-1-dependent transcription induced by hypoxia or CoCl2. Transfection of these cells with wild-type mTOR enhanced HIF-1 activation by hypoxia or CoCl2, while expression of a rapamycin-resistant mTOR mutant rendered both HIF-1α stabilization and HIF-1 transactivating function refractory to inhibition by rapamycin. Studies with GAL4-HIF-1α fusion proteins pinpointed the oxygen-dependent degradation domain as a critical target for the rapamycin-sensitive, mTOR-dependent signaling pathway leading to HIF-1α stabilization by CoCl2. These studies position mTOR as an upstream activator of HIF-1 function in cancer cells and suggest that the antitumor activity of rapamycin is mediated, in part, through the inhibition of cellular responses to hypoxic stress.
PMCID: PMC139825  PMID: 12242281
8.  BAY 87-2243, a highly potent and selective inhibitor of hypoxia-induced gene activation has antitumor activities by inhibition of mitochondrial complex I 
Cancer Medicine  2013;2(5):611-624.
The activation of the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) plays an essential role in tumor development, tumor progression, and resistance to chemo- and radiotherapy. In order to identify compounds targeting the HIF pathway, a small molecule library was screened using a luciferase-driven HIF-1 reporter cell line under hypoxia. The high-throughput screening led to the identification of a class of aminoalkyl-substituted compounds that inhibited hypoxia-induced HIF-1 target gene expression in human lung cancer cell lines at low nanomolar concentrations. Lead structure BAY 87-2243 was found to inhibit HIF-1α and HIF-2α protein accumulation under hypoxic conditions in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell line H460 but had no effect on HIF-1α protein levels induced by the hypoxia mimetics desferrioxamine or cobalt chloride. BAY 87-2243 had no effect on HIF target gene expression levels in RCC4 cells lacking Von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) activity nor did the compound affect the activity of HIF prolyl hydroxylase-2. Antitumor activity of BAY 87-2243, suppression of HIF-1α protein levels, and reduction of HIF-1 target gene expression in vivo were demonstrated in a H460 xenograft model. BAY 87-2243 did not inhibit cell proliferation under standard conditions. However under glucose depletion, a condition favoring mitochondrial ATP generation as energy source, BAY 87-2243 inhibited cell proliferation in the nanomolar range. Further experiments revealed that BAY 87-2243 inhibits mitochondrial complex I activity but has no effect on complex III activity. Interference with mitochondrial function to reduce hypoxia-induced HIF-1 activity in tumors might be an interesting therapeutic approach to overcome chemo- and radiotherapy-resistance of hypoxic tumors.
PMCID: PMC3892793  PMID: 24403227
Antitumor activity; hypoxia; hypoxia-inducible factor-1; mitochondrial complex 1
9.  Inhibition of KAP1 Enhances Hypoxia-Induced Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Reactivation through RBP-Jκ 
Journal of Virology  2014;88(12):6873-6884.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) has been frequently implicated in many cancers as well as viral pathogenesis. Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is linked to several human malignancies. It can stabilize HIF-1α during latent infection and undergoes lytic replication in response to hypoxic stress. However, the mechanism by which KSHV controls its latent and lytic life cycle through the deregulation of HIF-1α is not fully understood. Our previous studies showed that the hypoxia-sensitive chromatin remodeler KAP1 was targeted by the KSHV-encoded latency-associated nuclear antigen (LANA) to repress expression of the major lytic replication and transcriptional activator (RTA). Here we further report that an RNA interference-based knockdown of KAP1 in KSHV-infected primary effusion lymphoma (PEL) cells disrupted viral episome stability and abrogated sub-G1/G1 arrest of the cell cycle while increasing the efficiency of KSHV lytic reactivation by hypoxia or using the chemical 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) or sodium butyrate (NaB). Moreover, KSHV genome-wide screening revealed that four hypoxia-responsive clusters have a high concurrence of both RBP-Jκ and HIF-1α binding sites (RBS+HRE) within the same gene promoter and are tightly associated with KAP1. Inhibition of KAP1 greatly enhanced the association of RBP-Jκ with the HIF-1α complex for driving RTA expression not only in normoxia but also in hypoxia. These results suggest that both KAP1 and the concurrence of RBS+HRE within the RTA promoter are essential for KSHV latency and hypoxia-induced lytic reactivation.
IMPORTANCE Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a DNA tumor virus, is an etiological agent linked to several human malignancies, including Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) and primary effusion lymphoma (PEL). HIF-1α, a key hypoxia-inducible factor, is frequently elevated in KSHV latently infected tumor cells and contributes to KSHV lytic replication in hypoxia. The molecular mechanisms of how KSHV controls the latent and lytic life cycle through deregulating HIF-1α remain unclear. In this study, we found that inhibition of hypoxia-sensitive chromatin remodeler KAP1 in KSHV-infected PEL cells leads to a loss of viral genome and increases its sensitivity to hypoxic stress, leading to KSHV lytic reactivation. Importantly, we also found that four hypoxia-responsive clusters within the KSHV genome contain a high concurrence of RBP-Jκ (a key cellular regulator involved in Notch signaling) and HIF-1α binding sites. These sites are also tightly associated with KAP1. This discovery implies that KAP1, RBP-Jκ, and HIF-1α play an essential role in KSHV pathogenesis through subtle cross talk which is dependent on the oxygen levels in the infected cells.
PMCID: PMC4054365  PMID: 24696491
10.  Inhibition of HIF-1alpha activity by homeodomain-interacting protein kinase-2 correlates with sensitization of chemoresistant cells to undergo apoptosis 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:1.
Homeodomain-interacting protein kinase-2 (HIPK2), a transcriptional co-repressor with apoptotic function, can affect hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) transcriptional activity, through downmodulation of its HIF-1α subunit, in normoxic condition. Under hypoxia, a condition often found in solid tumors, HIF-1α is activated to induce target genes involved in chemoresistance, inhibition of apoptosis and tumor progression. Here, we investigated whether the HIPK2 overexpression could downregulate HIF-1α expression and activity in tumor cells treated with hypoxia-mimicking condition, and evaluated whether HIPK2-dependent downregulation of HIF-1α could sensitize chemoresistant tumor cells to adriamycin (ADR)-induced apoptosis.
Tumor cell lines carrying wild-type p53, siRNA p53, or mutant p53 were overexpressed with HIPK2 (full length or catalytic inactive mutant) and treated with cobalt chloride (CoCl2) to mimic hypoxia, in the presence or absence of ADR treatment. HIF-1α expression was measured by semiquantitative reverse-transcriptase (RT)-PCR and Western immunoblotting and HIF-1 activity was evaluated by luciferase assay using reporter plasmid containing hypoxia response elements (HREs) upstream of luciferase gene. HIF-1 target genes, including multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1) and the antiapoptotic Bcl2 were determined by RT-PCR. Cell survival and apoptosis were measured by colony assay and cleavage of the caspase-3 substrate PARP, respectively.
Overexpression of HIPK2 resulted in downmodulation of cobalt-stabilized HIF-1α protein and HIF-1α mRNA levels, with subsequent inhibition of HIF-1 transcriptional activity. MDR1 and Bcl-2 gene expression was downmodulated by HIPK2 overexpression in cobalt-treated cells. Inhibition of HIF-1 transcriptional activity was dependent on HIPK2 catalytic activity. HIPK2 overexpression did not induce per se apoptosis of cobalt-treated cells, on the contrary it sensitized cobalt-treated cells to ADR-induced apoptosis, regardless of their p53 status.
The ability of HIPK2 to restore the apoptosis-inducing potential of chemotherapeutic drug in hypoxia-mimicking condition and therefore to sensitize chemoresistant tumor cells suggests that HIPK2 may induce fundamental alterations in cell signaling pathways, involving or not p53 function. Thus potential use of HIPK2 is promising for cancer treatment by potentiating cytotoxic therapies, regardless of p53 cell status.
PMCID: PMC2628864  PMID: 19128456
11.  Disulfiram deregulates HIF-α subunits and blunts tumor adaptation to hypoxia in hepatoma cells 
Acta Pharmacologica Sinica  2013;34(9):1208-1216.
Disulfiram is an aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor that was used to treat alcoholism and showed anticancer activity, but its anticancer mechanism remains unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of disulfiram on the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-driven tumor adaptation to hypoxia in vitro.
Hep3B, Huh7 and HepG2 hepatoma cells were incubated under normoxic (20% O2) or hypoxic (1% O2) conditions for 16 h. The expression and activity of HIF-1α and HIF-2α proteins were evaluated using immunoblotting and luciferase reporter assay, respectively. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR was used to analyze HIF-mediated gene expression. Endothelial tubule formation assay was used to evaluate the anti-angiogenic effect.
Hypoxia caused marked expression of HIF-1α and HIF-1α in the 3 hepatoma cell lines, dramatically increased HIF activity and induced the expression of HIF downstream genes (EPO, CA9, VEGF-A and PDK1) in Hep3B cells. HIF-2α expression was positively correlated with the induction of hypoxic genes (CA9, VEGF-A and PDK1). Moreover, hypoxia markedly increased VEGF production and angiogenic potential of Hep3B cells. Disulfiram (0.3 to 2 μmol/L) inhibited hypoxia-induced gene expression and HIF activity in a dose-dependent manner. Disulfiram more effectively suppressed the viability of Hep3B cells under hypoxia, but it did not affect the cell cycle. Overexpression of HIF-2α in Hep3B cells reversed the inhibitory effects of disulfiram on hypoxia-induced gene expression and cell survival under hypoxia.
Disulfiram deregulates the HIF-mediated hypoxic signaling pathway in hepatoma cells, which may contribute to its anticancer effect. Thus, disulfiram could be used to treat solid tumors that grow in a HIF-dependent manner.
PMCID: PMC4003155  PMID: 23852087
disulfiram; hepatoma; hypoxia; HIF-2; VEGF; angiogenesis
12.  Kinome Sirna Screen Identifies SMG-1 as a Negative Regulator of Hypoxia-inducible Factor-1α in Hypoxia* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(25):16752-16758.
Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) plays a central role in tumor progression by regulating genes involved in proliferation, glycolysis, angiogenesis, and metastasis. To improve our understanding of HIF-1 regulation by kinome, we screened a kinase-specific small interference RNA library using a hypoxia-response element (HRE) luciferase reporter assay under hypoxic conditions. This screen determined that depletion of cellular SMG-1 kinase most significantly modified cellular HIF-1 activity in hypoxia. SMG-1 is the newest and least studied member of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase-related kinase family, which consists of ATM, ATR, DNA-PKcs, mTOR, and SMG-1. We individually depleted members of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase-related kinase family, and only SMG-1 deficiency significantly augmented HIF-1 activity in hypoxia. We subsequently discovered that SMG-1 kinase activity was activated by hypoxia, and depletion of SMG-1 up-regulated MAPK activity under low oxygen. Suppressing cellular MAPK by silencing ERK1/2 or by treatment with U0126, a MAPK inhibitor, partially blocked the escalation of HIF-1 activity resulting from SMG-1 deficiency in hypoxic cells. Increased expression of SMG-1 but not kinase-dead SMG-1 effectively inhibited the activity of HIF-1α. In addition, cellular SMG-1 deficiency increased secretion of the HIF-1α-regulated angiogenic factor, vascular epidermal growth factor, and survival factor, carbonic anhydrase IX (CA9), as well as promoted the hypoxic cell motility. Taken together, we discovered that SMG-1 negatively regulated HIF-1α activity in hypoxia, in part through blocking MAPK activation.
PMCID: PMC2719310  PMID: 19406746
13.  HIF–VEGF Pathways Are Critical for Chronic Otitis Media in Junbo and Jeff Mouse Mutants 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(10):e1002336.
Otitis media with effusion (OME) is the commonest cause of hearing loss in children, yet the underlying genetic pathways and mechanisms involved are incompletely understood. Ventilation of the middle ear with tympanostomy tubes is the commonest surgical procedure in children and the best treatment for chronic OME, but the mechanism by which they work remains uncertain. As hypoxia is a common feature of inflamed microenvironments, moderation of hypoxia may be a significant contributory mechanism. We have investigated the occurrence of hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) mediated responses in Junbo and Jeff mouse mutant models, which develop spontaneous chronic otitis media. We found that Jeff and Junbo mice labeled in vivo with pimonidazole showed cellular hypoxia in inflammatory cells in the bulla lumen, and in Junbo the middle ear mucosa was also hypoxic. The bulla fluid inflammatory cell numbers were greater and the upregulation of inflammatory gene networks were more pronounced in Junbo than Jeff. Hif-1α gene expression was elevated in bulla fluid inflammatory cells, and there was upregulation of its target genes including Vegfa in Junbo and Jeff. We therefore investigated the effects in Junbo of small-molecule inhibitors of VEGFR signaling (PTK787, SU-11248, and BAY 43-9006) and destabilizing HIF by inhibiting its chaperone HSP90 with 17-DMAG. We found that both classes of inhibitor significantly reduced hearing loss and the occurrence of bulla fluid and that VEGFR inhibitors moderated angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis in the inflamed middle ear mucosa. The effectiveness of HSP90 and VEGFR signaling inhibitors in suppressing OM in the Junbo model implicates HIF–mediated VEGF as playing a pivotal role in OM pathogenesis. Our analysis of the Junbo and Jeff mutants highlights the role of hypoxia and HIF–mediated pathways, and we conclude that targeting molecules in HIF–VEGF signaling pathways has therapeutic potential in the treatment of chronic OM.
Author Summary
Otitis media with effusion (OME) is the commonest cause of hearing loss in children, and treatment using grommets remains the commonest surgical procedure in children. Chronic forms of OM are known from human population studies to have a significant genetic component, but little is known of the underlying genes or pathways involved. We have analyzed two chronic OM mouse models, the Junbo and Jeff mutants, and have found that both demonstrate hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) mediated responses. There is upregulation of inflammatory pathways in the mutant middle ears and in Junbo elevation of cytokines that modulate Hif-1α. Hif-1α levels are raised in the middle ear as well as downstream targets of HIF such as Vegfa. We explored the effects of small-molecule inhibitors of HSP90 and VEGF receptor signaling in the Junbo mutant and found significant reductions in hearing loss, the occurrence of bulla fluid, and moderation of vascular changes in the inflamed middle ear mucosa with the VEGF receptor inhibitors. The study of the Junbo and Jeff mutants demonstrates the role of hypoxia and HIF mediated pathways in OM pathogenesis, and it indicates that targeting the HIF–VEGF pathway may represent a novel approach to therapeutic intervention in chronic OM.
PMCID: PMC3197687  PMID: 22028672
14.  Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is involved in the regulation of hypoxia-stimulated expression of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1/CCL2) and MCP-5 (Ccl12) in astrocytes 
Neuroinflammation has been implicated in various brain pathologies characterized by hypoxia and ischemia. Astroglia play an important role in the initiation and propagation of hypoxia/ischemia-induced inflammation by secreting inflammatory chemokines that attract neutrophils and monocytes into the brain. However, triggers of chemokine up-regulation by hypoxia/ischemia in these cells are poorly understood. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a dimeric transcriptional factor consisting of HIF-1α and HIF-1β subunits. HIF-1 binds to HIF-1-binding sites in the target genes and activates their transcription. We have recently shown that hypoxia-induced expression of IL-1β in astrocytes is mediated by HIF-1α. In this study, we demonstrate the role of HIF-1α in hypoxia-induced up-regulation of inflammatory chemokines, human monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1/CCL2) and mouse MCP-5 (Ccl12), in human and mouse astrocytes, respectively.
Primary fetal human astrocytes or mouse astrocytes generated from HIF-1α+/+ and HIF-1α+/- mice were subjected to hypoxia (<2% oxygen) or 125 μM CoCl2 for 4 h and 6 h, respectively. The expression of HIF-1α, MCP-1 and MCP-5 was determined by semi-quantitative RT-PCR, western blot or ELISA. The interaction of HIF-1α with a HIF-1-binding DNA sequence was examined by EMSA and supershift assay. HIF-1-binding sequence in the promoter of MCP-1 gene was cloned and transcriptional activation of MCP-1 by HIF-1α was analyzed by reporter gene assay.
Sequence analyses identified HIF-1-binding sites in the promoters of MCP-1 and MCP-5 genes. Both hypoxia and HIF-1α inducer, CoCl2, strongly up-regulated HIF-1α expression in astrocytes. Mouse HIF-1α+/- astrocytes had lower basal levels of HIF-1α and MCP-5 expression. The up-regulation of MCP-5 by hypoxia or CoCl2 in HIF-1α+/+ and HIF-1α+/- astrocytes was correlated with the levels of HIF-1α in cells. Both hypoxia and CoCl2 also up-regulated HIF-1α and MCP-1 expression in human astrocytes. EMSA assay demonstrated that HIF-1 activated by either hypoxia or CoCl2 binds to wild-type HIF-1-binding DNA sequence, but not the mutant sequence. Furthermore, reporter gene assay demonstrated that hypoxia markedly activated MCP-1 transcription but not the mutated MCP-1 promoter in transfected astrocytes.
These findings suggest that both MCP-1 and MCP-5 are HIF-1 target genes and that HIF-1α is involved in transcriptional induction of these two chemokines in astrocytes by hypoxia.
PMCID: PMC1872020  PMID: 17474992
15.  HIF1A Reduces Acute Lung Injury by Optimizing Carbohydrate Metabolism in the Alveolar Epithelium 
PLoS Biology  2013;11(9):e1001665.
A study of acute lung injury reveals the involvement of transcription factor HIF1A in lung protection, where normoxic HIF1A stabilization functions to control alveolar epithelial glucose metabolism.
While acute lung injury (ALI) contributes significantly to critical illness, it resolves spontaneously in many instances. The majority of patients experiencing ALI require mechanical ventilation. Therefore, we hypothesized that mechanical ventilation and concomitant stretch-exposure of pulmonary epithelia could activate endogenous pathways important in lung protection.
Methods and Findings
To examine transcriptional responses during ALI, we exposed pulmonary epithelia to cyclic mechanical stretch conditions—an in vitro model resembling mechanical ventilation. A genome-wide screen revealed a transcriptional response similar to hypoxia signaling. Surprisingly, we found that stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor 1A (HIF1A) during stretch conditions in vitro or during ventilator-induced ALI in vivo occurs under normoxic conditions. Extension of these findings identified a functional role for stretch-induced inhibition of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) in mediating normoxic HIF1A stabilization, concomitant increases in glycolytic capacity, and improved tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle function. Pharmacologic studies with HIF activator or inhibitor treatment implicated HIF1A-stabilization in attenuating pulmonary edema and lung inflammation during ALI in vivo. Systematic deletion of HIF1A in the lungs, endothelia, myeloid cells, or pulmonary epithelia linked these findings to alveolar-epithelial HIF1A. In vivo analysis of 13C-glucose metabolites utilizing liquid-chromatography tandem mass-spectrometry demonstrated that increases in glycolytic capacity, improvement of mitochondrial respiration, and concomitant attenuation of lung inflammation during ALI were specific for alveolar-epithelial expressed HIF1A.
These studies reveal a surprising role for HIF1A in lung protection during ALI, where normoxic HIF1A stabilization and HIF-dependent control of alveolar-epithelial glucose metabolism function as an endogenous feedback loop to dampen lung inflammation.
Author Summary
Acute lung injury is a devastating lung disease caused by injuries or acute infections to the lung. In patients it manifests itself as acute respiratory distress syndrome. Severe pulmonary edema and uncontrolled lung inflammation are typical symptoms of acute lung injury, which make it hard for patients to breath efficiently. In the clinical course of the disease, patients require mechanical ventilation to support their lung function and to provide sufficient oxygen levels to vital organs such as the brain, the heart, or the kidneys. We hypothesized that stretch conditions—such as those that occur during mechanical ventilation—result in transcriptional adaptation of alveolar epithelial cells—the innermost lining of the lungs. In this study we identified an unexpected involvement of the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor HIF1A in lung protection. We observed that during acute lung injury, stabilization of HIF1A is mediated by increased levels of succinate, an intermediate product of the citrate cycle. Interestingly, we show that HIF1A in alveolar epithelia functions to induce a transcriptional program that improves the efficiency of carbohydrate metabolism by injured lungs, thereby helping to adapt to the injurious conditions of mechanical stretch and to reduce lung inflammation. These preclinical findings highlight the potential for pharmacological HIF1A stabilization in the treatment of acute lung injury.
PMCID: PMC3782424  PMID: 24086109
16.  HIF-1α: a Valid Therapeutic Target for Tumor Therapy 
Hypoxia plays a major role in the induction of angiogenesis during tumor development. One mechanism by which tumor cells respond to a reduced oxygen level is via the activation of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1). HIF-1 is an oxygen-dependent transcriptional activator that plays crucial roles in the angiogenesis of tumors and mammalian development. HIF-1 consists of a constitutively expressed HIF-1β subunit and the highly regulated HIF-1α subunits. The stability and activity of HIF-1α are regulated by various post-translational modifications, hydroxylation, acetylation, phosphorylation and sumoyaltion. Therefore, HIF-1α interacts with several protein factors including PHD, pVHL, ARD-1, SUMO and p300/CBP. Under normoxia, the HIF-1α subunit is rapidly degraded via the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor gene product (pVHL)-mediated ubiquitin/proteasome pathway. The association of pVHL and HIF-1α under normoxic conditions is triggered by the hydroxylation of prolines and the acetylation of lysine within a polypeptide segment known as the oxygen-dependent degradation (ODD) domain. On the contrary, under the hypoxia condition, the HIF-1α subunit becomes stable and interacts with coactivators such as p300/CBP to modulate its transcriptional activity. Under hypoxic conditions, HIF-1 eventually acts as a master regulator of numerous hypoxia-inducible genes. The target genes of HIF-1 are especially related to angiogenesis, cell proliferation and survival, and to glucose and iron metabolism. Moreover, it was reported that the activation of HIF-1α is closely associated with a variety of tumors and oncogenic pathways. Hence, the blocking of HIF-1α itself or the blocking of HIF-1α interacting proteins inhibits tumor growth. Based on these findings, HIF-1 can be a prime target for anticancer therapies. Therefore, this review summarizes the molecular mechanism of HIF-1α stability, the biological functions of HIF-1 and its potential applications for cancer therapies.
PMCID: PMC2843877  PMID: 20368827
ARD1; Angiogenesis; Anticancer therapy; Cell proliferation/survival; Glucose metabolism; HIF-1; Iron metabolism; PHD; SUMO; pVHL; p300/CBP; Transcription factor
17.  Mutation of von Hippel–Lindau Tumour Suppressor and Human Cardiopulmonary Physiology 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(7):e290.
The von Hippel–Lindau tumour suppressor protein–hypoxia-inducible factor (VHL–HIF) pathway has attracted widespread medical interest as a transcriptional system controlling cellular responses to hypoxia, yet insights into its role in systemic human physiology remain limited. Chuvash polycythaemia has recently been defined as a new form of VHL-associated disease, distinct from the classical VHL-associated inherited cancer syndrome, in which germline homozygosity for a hypomorphic VHL allele causes a generalised abnormality in VHL–HIF signalling. Affected individuals thus provide a unique opportunity to explore the integrative physiology of this signalling pathway. This study investigated patients with Chuvash polycythaemia in order to analyse the role of the VHL–HIF pathway in systemic human cardiopulmonary physiology.
Methods and Findings
Twelve participants, three with Chuvash polycythaemia and nine controls, were studied at baseline and during hypoxia. Participants breathed through a mouthpiece, and pulmonary ventilation was measured while pulmonary vascular tone was assessed echocardiographically. Individuals with Chuvash polycythaemia were found to have striking abnormalities in respiratory and pulmonary vascular regulation. Basal ventilation and pulmonary vascular tone were elevated, and ventilatory, pulmonary vasoconstrictive, and heart rate responses to acute hypoxia were greatly increased.
The features observed in this small group of patients with Chuvash polycythaemia are highly characteristic of those associated with acclimatisation to the hypoxia of high altitude. More generally, the phenotype associated with Chuvash polycythaemia demonstrates that VHL plays a major role in the underlying calibration and homeostasis of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, most likely through its central role in the regulation of HIF.
Editors' Summary
Human cells (like those of other multicellular animals) use oxygen to provide the energy needed for daily life. Having not enough oxygen is a problem, but having too much is also dangerous because it damages proteins, DNA, and other large molecules that keep cells functioning. Consequently, the physiological systems—including the heart, lungs, and circulation—work together to balance oxygen supply and demand throughout the body. When oxygen is limiting (a condition called hypoxia), as happens at high altitudes, the cellular oxygen supply is maintained by increasing the heart rate, increasing the speed and depth of breathing (hyperventilation), constricting the blood vessels in the lung (pulmonary vasoconstriction), and increasing the number of oxygen-carrying cells in the blood. All these physiological changes increase the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed from the air, but how they are regulated is poorly understood. By contrast, researchers know quite a bit about how individual cells respond to hypoxia. When oxygen is limited, a protein called hypoxia-inducible factor (or HIF) activates a number of target proteins that help the cell get enough oxygen (for example, proteins that stimulate the growth of new blood vessels). When there is plenty of oxygen, another protein, called von Hippel–Lindau tumor suppressor (abbreviated VHL), rapidly destroys HIF. Recently, researchers discovered that a genetic condition called Chuvash polycythaemia, characterised by the overproduction of red blood cells, is caused by a specific defect in VHL that reduces its ability to destroy HIF. As a result, the expression of certain HIF target proteins is increased even when oxygen levels are normal.
Why Was This Study Done?
Chuvash polycythaemia is very rare, and so far little is known about how this genetic abnormality affects the physiology and long-term health of patients. By studying heart and lung function in patients with Chuvash polycythaemia, the researchers involved in this study hoped to discover more about the health consequences of the condition and to find out whether the VHL–HIF system controls systemic responses to hypoxia as well as cellular responses.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited and studied three patients with Chuvash polycythaemia, and, as controls for the comparison, several normal individuals and patients with an unrelated form of polycythaemia. They then measured how the lungs and hearts of these people reacted to mild hypoxia (similar to that experienced on commercial air flights) and moderate hypoxia (equiv alent to being on the top of an Alpine peak). They found that patients with Chuvash polycythaemia naturally breathe slightly quicker and deeper than normal individuals, and that their breathing rate increased dramatically and abnormally when oxygen was reduced. They also found that at normal oxygen levels the pulmonary blood vessels of these patients were more constricted than those of control individuals, and that they reacted more extremely to hypoxia. Similarly, the normal heart rate of the patients was slightly higher than that of the controls and increased much more in response to mild hypoxia.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The physiological differences measured by the researchers between Chuvash polycythaemia patients and control individuals are similar to the adaptations seen in people traveling to high altitudes where oxygen is limited. Thus, the VHL–HIF proteins may regulate the response to different oxygen concentrations both in individual cells and at the systemic level, although more physiological studies are needed to confirm this. Because the pulmonary blood vessels of patients with Chuvash polycythaemia are always abnormally constricted, and even more so when oxygen is limited, these people should avoid living at high altitude and should minimise air travel, suggest the researchers. The increased blood pressure in their lungs (pulmonary hypertension) could conceivably cause heart failure under such circumstances. Finally, this study has implications for the development of drugs directed at the VHL–HIF system. Agents are currently being designed to promote the development of new blood vessels after strokes or heart attacks by preventing the destruction of HIF, but based on the findings here such agents might have undesirable physiological affects. Conversely, HIF inhibitors (which act as anti-cancer reagents by increasing hypoxia in the centre of tumors and so inhibiting their growth) might be useful in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man page on Chuvash polycythaemia
• Information from the VHL Family Alliance on von Hippel–Lindau disease, including information on Chuvash polycythaemia
• Wikipedia page on polycythaemia and von Hippel–Lindau disease (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit)
Physiological study of patients with Chuvash polycythemia (caused by mutation of VHL) reveals characteristics similar to those associated with acclimatization to the hypoxia of high altitude.
PMCID: PMC1479389  PMID: 16768548
18.  A Quantitative High-Throughput Screen for Modulators of IL-6 Signaling: A Model for Interrogating Biological Networks using Chemical Libraries 
Molecular bioSystems  2009;5(9):1039-1050.
Small molecule modulators are critical for dissecting and understanding signaling pathways at the molecular level. Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a cytokine that signals via the JAK/STAT pathway and is implicated in cancer and inflammation. To identify modulators of this pathway, we screened a chemical collection against an IL-6 responsive cell line stably expressing a beta-lactamase reporter gene fused to a sis-inducible element (SIE-bla cells). This assay was optimized for a 1536-well microplate format and screened against 11,693 small molecules using quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS), a method that assays a chemical library at multiple concentrations to generate titration-response profiles for each compound. The qHTS recovered 564 actives with well-fit curves that clustered into 32 distinct chemical series of 13 activators and 19 inhibitors. A retrospective analysis of the qHTS data indicated that single concentration data at 1.5 and 7.7 uM scored 35 and 71% of qHTS actives, respectively, as inactive and were therefore false negatives. Following counter screens to identify fluorescent and nonselective series, we found four activator and one inhibitor series that modulated SIE-bla cells but did not show similar activity in reporter gene assays induced by EGF and hypoxia. Small molecules within these series will make useful tool compounds to investigate IL-6 signaling mediated by JAK/STAT activation.
PMCID: PMC2747079  PMID: 19668870
IL-6; small molecule; HTS; STAT; assay
19.  Latent Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus Infection of Endothelial Cells Activates Hypoxia-Induced Factors▿  
Journal of Virology  2006;80(21):10802-10812.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV or HHV-8) is the etiological agent of Kaposi's sarcoma, a highly vascularized, endothelial-derived tumor. A direct role for KSHV-mediated induction of angiogenesis has been proposed based upon the nature of the neoplasia and various KSHV gene overexpression and infection model systems. We have found that KSHV infection of endothelial cells induces mRNA of hypoxia-induced factor 1α (HIF1α) and HIF2α, two homologous alpha subunits of the heterodimeric transcription factor HIF. HIF is a master regulator of both developmental and pathological angiogenesis, composed of an oxygen-sensitive alpha subunit and a constitutively expressed beta subunit. HIF is classically activated posttranscriptionally with hypoxia, leading to increased protein stability of HIF1α and/or HIF2α. However, we demonstrate that both alpha subunits are up-regulated at the transcript level by KSHV infection. The transcriptional activation of HIF leads to a functional increase in HIF activity under normoxic conditions, as demonstrated by both luciferase reporter assay and the increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1 (VEGFR1), an HIF-responsive gene. KSHV infection synergizes with hypoxia mimics and induces higher expression levels of HIF1α and HIF2α protein, and HIF1α is increased in a significant proportion of the latently infected endothelial cells. Src family kinases are required for the activation of HIF and the downstream gene VEGFR1 by KSHV. We also show that KS lesions, in vivo, express elevated levels of HIF1α and HIF2α proteins. Thus, KSHV stimulates the HIF pathway via transcriptional up-regulation of both HIF alphas, and this activation may play a role in KS formation, localization, and progression.
PMCID: PMC1641760  PMID: 16956952
20.  Natural Product-Based Inhibitors of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1 (HIF-1) 
Current drug targets  2006;7(3):355-369.
The transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) regulates the expression of more than 70 genes involved in cellular adaptation and survival under hypoxic stress. Activation of HIF-1 is associated with numerous physiological and pathological processes that include tumorigenesis, vascular remodeling, inflammation, and hypoxia/ischemia-related tissue damage. Clinical studies suggested that HIF-1 activation correlates directly with advanced disease stages and treatment resistance among cancer patients. Preclinical studies support the inhibition of HIF-1 as a major molecular target for antitumor drug discovery. Considerable effort is underway, in government laboratories, industry and academia, to identify therapeutically useful small molecule HIF-1 inhibitors. Natural products (low molecular weight organic compounds produced by plants, microbes, and animals) continue to play a major role in modern antitumor drug discovery. Most of the compounds discovered to inhibit HIF-1 are natural products or synthetic compounds with structures that are based on natural product leads. Natural products have also served a vital role as molecular probes to elucidate the pathways that regulate HIF-1 activity. Natural products and natural product-derived compounds that inhibit HIF-1 are summarized in light of their biological source, chemical class, ancd effect on HIF-1 and HIF-mediated gene regulation. When known, the mechanism(s) of action of HIF-1 inhibitors are described. Many of the substances found to inhibit HIF-1 are non-druggable compounds that are too cytotoxic to serve as drug leads. The application of high-throughput screening methods, complementary molecular-targeted assays, and structurally diverse chemical libraries hold promise for the discovery of therapeutically useful HIF-1 inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC2908043  PMID: 16515532
HIF-1; Natural Product; Tumor Hypoxia; Molecular-Targeted Drug Discovery; Small Molecule HIF-1 Inhibitor; Hypoxia Selective
21.  Identification of a novel small molecule HIF-1α translation inhibitor 
Hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is the central mediator of the cellular response to low oxygen and functions as a transcription factor for a broad range of genes that provide adaptive responses to oxygen deprivation. HIF-1 is over-expressed in cancer and has become an important therapeutic target in solid tumors. In this study, a novel HIF-1α inhibitor was identified and its molecular mechanism was investigated.
Experimental Design
Using a HIF-responsive reporter cell-based assay, a 10,000-membered natural product-like chemical compound library was screened to identify novel HIF-1 inhibitors. This led us to discover KC7F2, a lead compound with a central structure of cystamine. The effects of KC7F2 on HIF-1 transcription, translation and protein degradation processes were analyzed.
KC7F2 markedly inhibited HIF-mediated transcription in cells derived from different tumor types, including glioma, breast and prostate cancers and exhibited enhanced cytotoxicity under hypoxia. KC7F2 prevented the activation of HIF-target genes such as Carbonic Anhydrase IX, Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2), Endothelin 1 and Enolase 1. Investigation of the mechanism of action of KC7F2 showed that it worked through the down-regulation of HIF-1α protein synthesis, an effect accompanied by the suppression of the phosphorylation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E binding protein 1 (4EBP1) and p70 S6 kinase (S6K), key regulators of HIF-1α protein synthesis.
These results show that KC7F2 is a potent HIF-1 pathway inhibitor and that its potential as a cancer therapy agent warrants further study.
PMCID: PMC2770235  PMID: 19789328
22.  STAT3 and HIF1α cooperatively activate HIF1 target genes in MDA-MB-231 and RCC4 cells 
Oncogene  2013;33(13):1670-1679.
Solid tumors often exhibit simultaneously inflammatory and hypoxic microenvironments. The ‘signal transducer and activator of transcription-3’ (STAT3)-mediated inflammatory response and the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-mediated hypoxia response have been independently shown to promote tumorigenesis through the activation of HIF or STAT3 target genes and to be indicative of a poor prognosis in a variety of tumors. We report here for the first time that STAT3 is involved in the HIF1, but not HIF2-mediated hypoxic transcriptional response. We show that inhibiting STAT3 activity in MDA-MB-231 and RCC4 cells by a STAT3 inhibitor or STAT3 small interfering RNA significantly reduces the levels of HIF1, but not HIF2 target genes in spite of normal levels of hypoxia-inducible transcription factor 1α (HIF1α) and HIF2α protein. Mechanistically, STAT3 activates HIF1 target genes by binding to HIF1 target gene promoters, interacting with HIF1α protein and recruiting coactivators CREB binding protein (CBP) and p300, and RNA polymerase II (Pol II) to form enhanceosome complexes that contain HIF1α, STAT3, CBP, p300 and RNA Pol II on HIF1 target gene promoters. Functionally, the effect of STAT3 knockdown on proliferation, motility and clonogenic survival of tumor cells in vitro is phenocopied by HIF1α knockdown in hypoxic cells, whereas STAT3 knockdown in normoxic cells also reduces cell proliferation, motility and clonogenic survival. This indicates that STAT3 works with HIF1 to activate HIF1 target genes and to drive HIF1-depedent tumorigenesis under hypoxic conditions, but also has HIF-independent activity in normoxic and hypoxic cells. Identifying the role of STAT3 in the hypoxia response provides further data supporting the effectiveness of STAT3 inhibitors in solid tumor treatment owing to their usefulness in inhibiting both the STAT3 and HIF1 pro-tumorigenic signaling pathways in some cancer types.
PMCID: PMC3868635  PMID: 23604114
cotranscriptional activation; HIF; hypoxia; STAT3; transcription
23.  Sulfonamides as a New Scaffold for Hypoxia Inducible Factor Pathway Inhibitors 
Solid tumors generally grow under hypoxic conditions, a pathophysiological change, which activates the expression of genes responsible for malignant, aggressive, and treatment-refractory properties. Hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) is the chief transcription factor regulating hypoxia-driven gene expression. Therefore, the HIF pathway has become a critical target for cancer therapeutics development. We screened a privileged library of about 10,000 natural-product-like compounds using a cell-based assay for HIF-dependent transcriptional activity and identified several arylsulfonamide HIF pathway inhibitors. Among these compounds, the most potent ones showed an IC50 of ~0.5 μM in the hypoxia-responsive element (HRE)-luciferase reporter system. Further studies are needed to fully elucidate the mechanism of action of this class of compounds and their structure-activity relationship.
PMCID: PMC3292863  PMID: 21831638
drug development; cancer; transcription factor; hypoxia; angiogenesis; glycolysis
24.  Relation of hypoxia inducible factor 1α and 2α in operable non-small cell lung cancer to angiogenic/molecular profile of tumours and survival 
British Journal of Cancer  2001;85(6):881-890.
Hypoxia inducible factors HIF1α and HIF2α are important proteins involved in the regulation of the transcription of a variety of genes related to erythropoiesis, glycolysis and angiogenesis. Hypoxic stimulation results in rapid increase of the HIF1α and 2α protein levels, as a consequence of a redox-sensitive stabilization. The HIFαs enter the nucleus, heterodimerize with the HIF1β protein, and bind to DNA at the hypoxia response elements (HREs) of target genes. In this study we evaluated the immunohistochemical expression of these proteins in 108 tissue samples from non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and in normal lung tissues. Both proteins showed a mixed cytoplasmic/nuclear pattern of expression in cancer cells, tumoural vessels and tumour-infiltrating macrophages, as well as in areas of metaplasia, while normal lung components showed negative or very weak cytoplasmic staining. Positive HIF1α and HIF2α expression was noted in 68/108 (62%) and in 54/108 (50%) of cases respectively. Correlation analysis of HIF2α expression with HIF1α expression showed a significant association (P < 0.0001, r = 0.44). A strong association of the expression of both proteins with the angiogenic factors VEGF (P < 0.004), PD-ECGF (P < 0.003) and bFGF (P < 0.04) was noted. HIF1α correlated with the expression of bek-bFGF receptor expression (P = 0.01), while HIF2α was associated with intense VEGF/KDR-activated vascularization (P = 0.002). HIF2α protein was less frequently expressed in cases with a medium microvessel density (MVD); a high rate of expression was noted in cases with both low and high MVD (P = 0.006). Analysis of overall survival showed that HIF2α expression was related to poor outcome (P = 0.008), even in the group of patients with low MVD (P = 0.009). HIF1α expression was marginally associated with poor prognosis (P = 0.08). In multivariate analysis HIF2α expression was an independent prognostic indicator (P = 0.006, t-ratio 2.7). We conclude that HIF1α and HIF2α overexpression is a common event in NSCLC, which is related to the up-regulation of various angiogenic factors and with poor prognosis. Targeting the HIF pathway may prove of importance in the treatment of NSCLC. © 2001 Cancer Research Campaign
PMCID: PMC2375073  PMID: 11556841
non-small-cell lung cancer; hypoxia inducible factors; angiogenesis; prognosis
25.  Physical and Functional Interactions between Runx2 and HIF-1α Induce Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Gene Expression 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2011;112(12):3582-3593.
Angiogenesis and bone formation are intimately related processes. Hypoxia during early bone development stabilizes hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and increases angiogenic signals including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Furthermore, stabilization of HIF-1α by genetic or chemical means stimulates bone formation. On the other hand, deficiency of Runx2, a key osteogenic transcription factor, prevents vascular invasion of bone and VEGF expression. This study explores the possibility that HIF-1α and Runx2 interact to activate angiogenic signals. Runx2 over-expression in mesenchymal cells increased VEGF mRNA and protein under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions. In normoxia, Runx2 also dramatically increased HIF-1α protein. In all cases, the Runx2 response was inhibited by siRNA-mediated suppression of HIF-1α and completely blocked by the HIF-1α inhibitor, echinomycin. Similarly, treatment of preosteoblast cells with Runx2 siRNA reduced VEGF mRNA in normoxia or hypoxia. However, Runx2 is not essential for the HIF-1α response since VEGF is induced by hypoxia even in Runx2-null cells. Endogenous Runx2 and HIF-1α were colocalized to the nuclei of MC3T3-E1 preosteoblast cells. Moreover, HIF-1α and Runx2 physically interact using sites within the Runx2 RUNT domain. Chromatin immunoprecipitation also provided evidence for colocalization of Runx2 and HIF-1α on the VEGF promoter. In addition, Runx2 stimulated HIF-1α-dependent activation of an HRE-luciferase reporter gene without requiring a separate Runx2-binding enhancer. These studies indicate that Runx2 functions together with HIF-1α to stimulate angiogenic gene expression in bone cells and may in part explain the known requirement for Runx2 in bone vascularization.
PMCID: PMC3202060  PMID: 21793044
Osteoblast; vascularization; angiogenesis; transcriptional factors; hypoxia

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