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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 and the hypoxia-inducible-factor pathway in glioma growth and angiogenesis1 
Neuro-Oncology  2005;7(2):134-153.
Glioblastomas, like other solid tumors, have extensive areas of hypoxia and necrosis. The importance of hypoxia in driving tumor growth is receiving increased attention. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is one of the master regulators that orchestrate the cellular responses to hypoxia. It is a heterodimeric transcription factor composed of α and β subunits. The α subunit is stable in hypoxic conditions but is rapidly degraded in normoxia. The function of HIF-1 is also modulated by several molecular mechanisms that regulate its synthesis, degradation, and transcriptional activity. Upon stabilization or activation, HIF-1 translocates to the nucleus and induces transcription of its downstream target genes. Most important to gliomagenesis, HIF-1 is a potent activator of angiogenesis and invasion through its upregulation of target genes critical for these functions. Activation of the HIF-1 pathway is a common feature of gliomas and may explain the intense vascular hyperplasia often seen in glioblastoma multiforme. Activation of HIF results in the activation of vascular endothelial growth factors, vascular endothelial growth factor receptors, matrix metalloproteinases, plasminogen activator inhibitor, transforming growth factors α and β, angiopoietin and Tie receptors, endothelin-1, inducible nitric oxide synthase, adrenomedullin, and erythropoietin, which all affect glioma angiogenesis. In conclusion, HIF is a critical regulatory factor in the tumor microenvironment because of its central role in promoting proangiogenic and invasive properties. While HIF activation strongly promotes angiogenesis, the emerging vasculature is often abnormal, leading to a vicious cycle that causes further hypoxia and HIF upregulation.
PMCID: PMC1871894  PMID: 15831232
3.  Activation of Hif1α by the Prolylhydroxylase Inhibitor Dimethyoxalyglycine Decreases Radiosensitivity 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26064.
Hypoxia inducible factor 1α (Hif1α) is a stress responsive transcription factor, which regulates the expression of genes required for adaption to hypoxia. Hif1α is normally hydroxylated by an oxygen-dependent prolylhydroxylase, leading to degradation and clearance of Hif1α from the cell. Under hypoxic conditions, the activity of the prolylhydroxylase is reduced and Hif1α accumulates. Hif1α is also constitutively expressed in tumor cells, where it is associated with resistance to ionizing radiation. Activation of the Hif1α transcriptional regulatory pathway may therefore function to protect normal cells from DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation. Here, we utilized the prolylhydroxylase inhibitor dimethyloxalylglycine (DMOG) to elevate Hif1α levels in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) to determine if DMOG could function as a radioprotector. The results demonstrate that DMOG increased Hif1α protein levels and decreased the sensitivity of MEFs to ionizing radiation. Further, the ability of DMOG to function as a radioprotector required Hif1α, indicating a key role for Hif1α's transcriptional activity. DMOG also induced the Hif1α -dependent accumulation of several DNA damage response proteins, including CHD4 and MTA3 (sub-units of the NuRD deacetylase complex) and the Suv39h1 histone H3 methyltransferase. Depletion of Suv39h1, but not CHD4 or MTA3, reduced the ability of DMOG to protect cells from radiation damage, implicating increased histone H3 methylation in the radioprotection of cells. Finally, treatment of mice with DMOG prior to total body irradiation resulted in significant radioprotection of the mice, demonstrating the utility of DMOG and related prolylhydroxylase inhibitors to protect whole organisms from ionizing radiation. Activation of Hif1α through prolylhydroxylase inhibition therefore identifies a new pathway for the development of novel radiation protectors.
PMCID: PMC3189247  PMID: 22016813
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  Regulation of gene expression by hypoxia: integration of the HIF-transduced hypoxic signal at the hypoxia-responsive element 
Cells experiencing lowered O2 levels (hypoxia) undergo a variety of biological responses in order to adapt to these unfavorable conditions. The master switch, orchestrating the cellular response to low O2 levels, is the transcription factor, termed hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF). The α subunits of HIF are regulated by 2-oxoglutarate-dependent oxygenases that, in the presence of O2, hydroxylate specific prolyl and asparaginyl residues of HIF-α, inducing its proteasome-dependent degradation and repression of transcriptional activity, respectively. Hypoxia inhibits oxygenases, stabilized HIF-α translocates to the nucleus, dimerizes with HIF-β, recruits the coactivators p300/CBP, and induces expression of its transcriptional targets via binding to hypoxia-responsive elements (HREs). HREs are composite regulatory elements, comprising a conserved HIF-binding sequence and a highly variable flanking sequence that modulates the transcriptional response. In summary, the transcriptional response of a cell is the end product of two major functions. The first (trans-acting) is the level of activation of the HIF pathway that depends on regulation of stability and transcriptional activity of the HIF-α. The second (cis-acting) comprises the characteristics of endogenous HREs that are determined by the availability of transcription factors cooperating with HIF and/or individual HIF-α isoforms.
PMCID: PMC2536516  PMID: 18505681
Hypoxia; hypoxia-inducible factor; transcriptional regulation; hypoxia-responsive element
8.  Cobalt stimulates HIF-1-dependent but inhibits HIF-2-dependent gene expression in liver cancer cells 
The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology  2013;45(11):10.1016/j.biocel.2013.07.025.
Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are transcriptional regulators that mediate the cellular response to low oxygen. Although HIF-1 is usually considered as the principal mediator of hypoxic adaptation, several tissues and different cell types express both HIF-1 and HIF-2 isoforms under hypoxia or when treated with hypoxia mimetic chemicals such as cobalt. However, the similarities or differences between HIF-1 and HIF-2, in terms of their tissue- and inducer-specific activation and function, are not adequately characterized. To address this issue, we investigated the effects of true hypoxia and hypoxia mimetics on HIF-1 and HIF-2 induction and specific gene transcriptional activity in two hepatic cancer cell lines, Huh7 and HepG2. Both hypoxia and cobalt caused rapid induction of both HIF-1α and HIF-2α proteins. Hypoxia induced erythropoietin (EPO) expression and secretion in a HIF-2-dependent way. Surprisingly, however, EPO expression was not induced when cells were treated with cobalt. In agreement, both HIF-1- and HIF-2-dependent promoters (of PGK and SOD2 genes, respectively) were activated by hypoxia while cobalt only activated the HIF-1-dependent PGK promoter. Unlike cobalt, other hypoxia mimetics such as DFO and DMOG activated both types of promoters. Furthermore, cobalt impaired the hypoxic stimulation of HIF-2, but not HIF-1, activity and cobalt-induced HIF-2α interacted poorly with USF-2, a HIF-2-specific co-activator. These data show that, despite similar induction of HIF-1α and HIF-2α protein expression, HIF-1 and HIF-2 specific gene activating functions respond differently to different stimuli and suggest the operation of oxygen-independent and gene- or tissue-specific regulatory mechanisms involving additional transcription factors or co-activators.
PMCID: PMC3855297  PMID: 23958427
HIF-2α; EPO; SOD2; Hypoxia; Cobalt; USF2
9.  The FIH hydroxylase is a cellular peroxide sensor that modulates HIF transcriptional activity 
EMBO Reports  2012;13(3):251-257.
The FIH hydroxylase is a cellular peroxide sensor that modulates HIF transcriptional activity
HIF asparaginyl hydroxylase (FIH) is shown to be strikingly more sensitive to peroxide than the HIF prolyl hydroxylases, indicating that hypoxia and oxidative stress are distinct regulators of the HIF response.
Hypoxic and oxidant stresses can coexist in biological systems, and oxidant stress has been proposed to activate hypoxia pathways through the inactivation of the ‘oxygen-sensing' hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) prolyl and asparaginyl hydroxylases. Here, we show that despite reduced sensitivity to cellular hypoxia, the HIF asparaginyl hydroxylase—known as FIH, factor inhibiting HIF—is strikingly more sensitive to peroxide than the HIF prolyl hydroxylases. These contrasting sensitivities indicate that oxidant stress is unlikely to signal hypoxia directly to the HIF system, but that hypoxia and oxidant stress can interact functionally as distinct regulators of HIF transcriptional output.
PMCID: PMC3323130  PMID: 22310300
FIH; HIF; hydroxylation; peroxide
10.  Myc post-transcriptionally induces HIF1 protein and target gene expression in normal and cancer cells 
Cancer Research  2011;72(4):949-957.
c-Myc is frequently overexpressed in tumors and plays an important role in the regulation of cancer metabolism. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF1), the master regulator of the hypoxic response, enhances tumorigenesis and influences metabolism via upregulation of the glycolytic pathway and suppression of mitochondrial respiration. Together, deregulated Myc and HIF1 cooperate to lend metabolic advantages to proliferating cancer cells and contribute to the Warburg Effect. Here we show that overexpression of Myc significantly stabilizes the alpha subunit of HIF1 (HIF1alpha) under normoxic conditions and enhances HIF1alpha accumulation under hypoxic conditions in cells. Post-transcriptional regulation of HIF1α by Myc led to the induction of HIF1α gene targets. Normoxic HIF1α protein expression was also dependent on Myc. Functionally; HIF1α expression was required for Myc-induced anchorage-independent growth and cell proliferation. Myc-dependent stabilization of HIF1α involved either disruption of binding to the VHL complex or post-translational protein modifications. Taken together, our findings uncover a previously uncharacterized regulatory relationship between Myc and HIF1 that has important implications for cancer metabolism and development.
PMCID: PMC3288382  PMID: 22186139
11.  Identification of the Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1α-Responsive HGTD-P Gene as a Mediator in the Mitochondrial Apoptotic Pathway 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2004;24(9):3918-3927.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) controls the cellular responses to hypoxia, activating transcription of a range of genes involved in adaptive processes such as increasing glycolysis and promoting angiogenesis. However, paradoxically, HIF-1α also participates in hypoxic cell death. Several gene products, such as BNip3, RTP801, and Noxa, were identified as HIF-1α-responsive proapoptotic proteins, but the complicated hypoxic cell death pathways could not be completely explained by the few known genes. Moreover, molecules linking the proapoptotic signals of HIF-1α directly to mitochondrial permeability transition are missing. In this work, we report the identification of an HIF-1α-responsive proapoptotic molecule, HGTD-P. Its expression was directly regulated by HIF-1α through a hypoxia-responsive element on the HGTD-P promoter region. When overexpressed, HGTD-P was localized to mitochondria and facilitated apoptotic cell death via typical mitochondrial apoptotic cascades, including permeability transition, cytochrome c release, and caspase 9 activation. In the process of permeability transition induction, the death-inducing domain of HGTD-P physically interacted with the voltage-dependent anion channel. In addition, suppression of HGTD-P expression by small interfering RNA or antisense oligonucleotides protected against hypoxic cell death. Taken together, our data indicate that HGTD-P is a new HIF-1α-responsive proapoptotic molecule that activates mitochondrial apoptotic cascades.
PMCID: PMC387743  PMID: 15082785
12.  Hypoxia-Induced Gene Expression Occurs Solely through the Action of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1α (HIF-1α): Role of Cytoplasmic Trapping of HIF-2α 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(14):4959-4971.
The hypoxia-inducible factors 1α (HIF-1α) and 2α (HIF-2α) have extensive structural homology and have been identified as key transcription factors responsible for gene expression in response to hypoxia. They play critical roles not only in normal development, but also in tumor progression. Here we report on the differential regulation of protein expression and transcriptional activity of HIF-1α and -2α by hypoxia in immortalized mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs). We show that oxygen-dependent protein degradation is restricted to HIF-1α, as HIF-2α protein is detected in MEFs regardless of oxygenation and is localized primarily to the cytoplasm. Endogenous HIF-2α remained transcriptionally inactive under hypoxic conditions; however, ectopically overexpressed HIF-2α translocated into the nucleus and could stimulate expression of hypoxia-inducible genes. We show that the factor inhibiting HIF-1 can selectively inhibit the transcriptional activity of HIF-1α but has no effect on HIF-2α-mediated transcription in MEFs. We propose that HIF-2α is not a redundant transcription factor of HIF-1α for hypoxia-induced gene expression and show evidence that there is a cell type-specific modulator(s) that enables selective activation of HIF-1α but not HIF-2α in response to low-oxygen stress.
PMCID: PMC162224  PMID: 12832481
13.  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
14.  Inhibition of ARNT severely compromises endothelial cell viability and function in response to moderate hypoxia 
Angiogenesis  2012;15(3):409-420.
Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) is a master heterodimeric transcriptional regulator of oxygen (O2) homeostasis critical to proper angiogenic responses. Due to the distinctive coexpression of HIF-1α and HIF-2α subunits in endothelial cells, our goal was to examine the genetic elimination of HIF transcriptional activity in response to physiological hypoxic conditions by using a genetic model in which the required HIF-β subunit (ARNT, Aryl hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator) to HIF transcriptional responses was depleted. Endothelial cells (ECs) and aortic explants were isolated from ArntloxP/loxP mice and infected with Adenovirus -Cre/GFP or control -GFP. We observed that moderate levels of 2.5% O2 promoted vessel sprouting, growth, and branching in control aortic ring assays while growth from Adenovirus -Cre infected explants was compromised. Primary Adenovirus -Cre infected EC cultures featured adverse migration and tube formation phenotypes. Primary pulmonary or cardiac ARNT-deleted ECs also failed to proliferate and survive in response to 8 or 2.5% O2 and hydrogen peroxide treatment. Our data demonstrates that ARNT promotes EC migration and vessel outgrowth and indispensible for the proliferation and preservation of ECs in response to the physiological environmental cue of hypoxia. Thus, these results demonstrate that ARNT plays a critical intrinsic role in ECs and support a critical role for the collaboration of HIF-1 and HIF-2 transcriptional activity in these cells.
PMCID: PMC3661274  PMID: 22484908
Angiogenesis; ARNT; HIF; physiological hypoxia; endothelium
15.  Oncogenic KRAS and BRAF Differentially Regulate Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1α and -2α in Colon Cancer 
Cancer research  2009;69(21):8499-8506.
KRAS and BRAF mutations are frequently observed in human colon cancers. These mutations occur in a mutually exclusive manner, and each is associated with distinctive biological features. We previously demonstrated that K-ras can interact with hypoxia to activate multiple signaling pathways. Many hypoxic responses are mediated by hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and HIF-2α, and we sought to define the roles of mutant KRAS and BRAF in the induction of HIF-1α and HIF-2α in colon cancer cells. Ectopic expression of mutant K-ras in Caco2 cells enhanced the hypoxic induction of only HIF-1α, whereas mutant BRAF enhanced both HIF-1α and HIF-2α. Knockout or knockdown of mutant KRAS in DLD1 and HCT116 cells impaired the hypoxic induction of only HIF-1α. HIF-1α mRNA levels were comparable in cells with and without a KRAS mutation. However, the rate of HIF-1α protein synthesis was higher in cells with a KRAS mutation, and this was suppressed by the PI3K inhibitor LY294002. In contrast, knockdown of mutant BRAF in HT29 cells suppressed both HIF-1α and HIF-2α. Although BRAF regulated mRNA levels of both HIF-1α and HIF-2α, knockdown of BRAF or treatment with the MEK inhibitor PD98059 impaired the translation of only HIF-2α. Our data reveal that oncogenic KRAS and BRAF mutations differentially regulate the hypoxic induction of HIF-1α and HIF-2α in colon cancer, and this may potentially contribute to the phenotypic differences of KRAS and BRAF mutations in colon tumors.
PMCID: PMC2811371  PMID: 19843849
16.  Hypoxia and hypoglycaemia in Ewing's sarcoma and osteosarcoma: regulation and phenotypic effects of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:372.
Hypoxia regulates gene expression via the transcription factor HIF (Hypoxia-Inducible Factor). Little is known regarding HIF expression and function in primary bone sarcomas. We describe HIF expression and phenotypic effects of hypoxia, hypoglycaemia and HIF in Ewing's sarcoma and osteosarcoma.
HIF-1α and HIF-2α immunohistochemistry was performed on a Ewing's tumour tissue array. Ewing's sarcoma and osteosarcoma cell lines were assessed for HIF pathway induction by Western blot, luciferase assay and ELISA. Effects of hypoxia, hypoglycaemia and isoform-specific HIF siRNA were assessed on proliferation, apoptosis and migration.
17/56 Ewing's tumours were HIF-1α-positive, 15 HIF-2α-positive and 10 positive for HIF-1α and HIF-2α. Expression of HIF-1α and cleaved caspase 3 localised to necrotic areas. Hypoxia induced HIF-1α and HIF-2α in Ewing's and osteosarcoma cell lines while hypoglycaemia specifically induced HIF-2α in Ewing's. Downstream transcription was HIF-1α-dependent in Ewing's sarcoma, but regulated by both isoforms in osteosarcoma. In both cell types hypoglycaemia reduced cellular proliferation by ≥ 45%, hypoxia increased apoptosis and HIF siRNA modulated hypoxic proliferation and migration.
Co-localisation of HIF-1α and necrosis in Ewing's sarcoma suggests a role for hypoxia and/or hypoglycaemia in in vivo induction of HIF. In vitro data implicates hypoxia as the primary HIF stimulus in both Ewing's and osteosarcoma, driving effects on proliferation and apoptosis. These results provide a foundation from which to advance understanding of HIF function in the pathobiology of primary bone sarcomas.
PMCID: PMC2918574  PMID: 20637078
17.  Mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species Activation of p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Is Required for Hypoxia Signaling 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(12):4853-4862.
Mammalian cells have the ability to sense low oxygen levels (hypoxia). An adaptive response to hypoxia involves the induction of the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1). The intracellular signaling pathways that regulate HIF-1 activation during hypoxia remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that p38α−/− cells fail to activate HIF-1 under hypoxic conditions. Cells deficient in Mkk3 and Mkk6, the upstream regulators of p38α, also fail to activate HIF-1 under hypoxic conditions. The p38α−/− cells are able to activate HIF-1 in response to anoxia or iron chelators during normoxia. Furthermore, the hypoxic activation of p38α and HIF-1 was abolished by myxothiazol, a mitochondrial complex III inhibitor, and glutathione peroxidase 1 (GPX1), a scavenger of hydrogen peroxide. Thus, the activation of p38α and HIF-1 is dependent on the generation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species. These results provide genetic evidence that p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling is essential for HIF-1 activation.
PMCID: PMC1140591  PMID: 15923604
18.  Differential Roles of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1α (HIF-1α) and HIF-2α in Hypoxic Gene Regulation 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(24):9361-9374.
Transcriptional responses to hypoxia are primarily mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), a heterodimer of HIF-α and the aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator subunits. The HIF-1α and HIF-2α subunits are structurally similar in their DNA binding and dimerization domains but differ in their transactivation domains, implying they may have unique target genes. Previous studies using Hif-1α−/− embryonic stem and mouse embryonic fibroblast cells show that loss of HIF-1α eliminates all oxygen-regulated transcriptional responses analyzed, suggesting that HIF-2α is dispensable for hypoxic gene regulation. In contrast, HIF-2α has been shown to regulate some hypoxia-inducible genes in transient transfection assays and during embryonic development in the lung and other tissues. To address this discrepancy, and to identify specific HIF-2α target genes, we used DNA microarray analysis to evaluate hypoxic gene induction in cells expressing HIF-2α but not HIF-1α. In addition, we engineered HEK293 cells to express stabilized forms of HIF-1α or HIF-2α via a tetracycline-regulated promoter. In this first comparative study of HIF-1α and HIF-2α target genes, we demonstrate that HIF-2α does regulate a variety of broadly expressed hypoxia-inducible genes, suggesting that its function is not restricted, as initially thought, to endothelial cell-specific gene expression. Importantly, HIF-1α (and not HIF-2α) stimulates glycolytic gene expression in both types of cells, clearly showing for the first time that HIF-1α and HIF-2α have unique targets.
PMCID: PMC309606  PMID: 14645546
19.  The role of hypoxia-inducible factors in tumorigenesis 
Cell death and differentiation  2008;15(4):678-685.
Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are essential mediators of the cellular oxygen-signaling pathway. They are heterodimeric transcription factors consisting of an oxygen-sensitive alpha subunit (HIF-α) and a constitutive beta subunit (HIF-β) that facilitate both oxygen delivery and adaptation to oxygen deprivation by regulating the expression of genes that control glucose uptake, metabolism, angiogenesis, erythropoiesis, cell proliferation, and apoptosis. In most experimental models, the HIF pathway is a positive regulator of tumor growth as its inhibition often results in tumor suppression. In clinical samples, HIF is found elevated and correlates with poor patient prognosis in a variety of cancers. In summary, HIF regulates multiple aspects of tumorigenesis, including angiogenesis, proliferation, metabolism, metastasis, differentiation, and response to radiation therapy, making it a critical regulator of the malignant phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3050610  PMID: 18259193
hypoxia; cancer; HIF; metastasis
20.  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
21.  Differential hypoxic regulation of hypoxia-inducible factors 1α and 2α 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2011;9(6):757-765.
The hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIF)-1α and -2α play a critical role in cellular response to hypoxia. Elevated HIF-α expression correlates with poor patient survival in a large number of cancers. Recent evidence suggests that HIF-2α appears to be preferentially expressed in neuronal tumor cells that exhibit cancer stem cell characteristics. These observations suggest that expression of HIF-1α and -2α is differentially regulated in the hypoxic tumor microenvironment. However, the underlying mechanisms remain to be fully investigated. In this study, we investigated the transcriptional regulation HIF-1α and -2α under different physiologically relevant hypoxic conditions. We found that transcription of HIF-2α was consistently increased by hypoxia, whereas transcription of HIF-1α showed variable levels of repression. Mechanistically, differential regulation of HIF-α transcription involved hypoxia-induced changes in acetylation of core histones H3 and H4 associated with the proximal promoters of the HIF-1α or HIF-2α gene. We also found that, although highly stable under acute hypoxia, HIF-1α and HIF-2α proteins become destabilized under chronic hypoxia. Our results have thus provided new mechanistic insights into the differential regulation of HIF-1α and -2α by the hypoxic tumor microenvironment. These findings also suggest an important role of HIF-2α in the regulation of tumor progression under chronic hypoxia.
PMCID: PMC3117969  PMID: 21571835
hypoxia; hypoxia-inducible factor; HIF-1α and HIF-2α; transcription; promoter
22.  Allosteric Inhibition of Hypoxia Inducible Factor-2 with Small Molecules 
Nature chemical biology  2013;9(4):271-276.
Hypoxia Inducible Factors (HIFs) are heterodimeric transcription factors induced in many cancers where they frequently promote the expression of many protumorigenic pathways. Though transcription factors are typically considered “undruggable”, the PAS-B domain of the HIF-2α subunit contains a large cavity within its hydrophobic core that offers a unique foothold for small-molecule regulation. Here we identify artificial ligands that bind within this pocket and characterize the resulting structural and functional changes caused by binding. Notably, these ligands antagonize HIF-2 heterodimerization and DNA-binding activity in vitro and in cultured cells, reducing HIF-2 target gene expression. Despite the high identity between HIF-2α and HIF-1α, these ligands are highly selective and do not affect HIF-1 function. These chemical tools establish the molecular basis for selective regulation of HIF-2, providing potential therapeutic opportunities to intervene in HIF-2-driven tumors such as renal cell carcinomas.
PMCID: PMC3604136  PMID: 23434853
23.  Enhanced Bone Regeneration Associated With Decreased Apoptosis in Mice With Partial HIF-1α Deficiency 
HIF-1α activates genes under hypoxia and was hypothesized to regulate bone regeneration. Surprisingly, HIF-1α+/− fracture calluses are larger, stronger, and stiffer than HIF-1α+/+ calluses because of decreased apoptosis. These data identify apoptosis inhibition as a means to enhance bone regeneration.
Bone regeneration subsequent to fracture involves the synergistic activation of multiple signaling pathways. Localized hypoxia after fracture activates hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α), leading to increased expression of HIF-1 target genes. We therefore hypothesized that HIF-1α is a key regulator of bone regeneration.
Materials and Methods
Fixed femoral fractures were generated in mice with partial HIF-1α deficiency (HIF-1α+/−) and wildtype littermates (HIF-1α+/+). Fracture calluses and intact contralateral femurs from postfracture days (PFDs) 21 and 28 (N = 5–10) were subjected to μCT evaluation and four-point bending to assess morphometric and mechanical properties. Molecular analyses were carried out on PFD 7, 10, and 14 samples (N = 3) to determine differential gene expression at both mRNA and protein levels. Finally, TUNEL staining was performed on PFD 14 samples (N = 2) to elucidate differential apoptosis.
Surprisingly, fracture calluses from HIF-1α+/− mice exhibited greater mineralization and were larger, stronger, and stiffer. Microarray analyses focused on hypoxia-induced genes revealed differential expression (between genotypes) of several genes associated with the apoptotic pathway. Real-time PCR confirmed these results, showing higher expression of proapoptotic protein phosphatase 2a (PP2A) and lower expression of anti-apoptotic B-cell leukemia/lymphoma 2 (BCL2) in HIF-1α+/+ calluses. Subsequent TUNEL staining showed that HIF-1α+/+ calluses contained larger numbers of TUNEL+ chondrocytes and osteoblasts than HIF-1α+/− calluses.
We conclude that partial HIF-1α deficiency results in decreased chondrocytic and osteoblastic apoptosis, thereby allowing the development of larger, stiffer calluses and enhancing bone regeneration. Furthermore, apoptosis inhibition may be a promising target for developing new treatments to accelerate bone regeneration.
PMCID: PMC2268762  PMID: 17181398
bone; fracture; regeneration; hypoxia; inducible factor 1α; apoptosis
24.  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
25.  A Regulatory Feedback Loop between HIF-1α and PIM2 in HepG2 Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88301.
To survive under hypoxic conditions, cancer cells remodel glucose metabolism to support tumor progression. HIF transcription factor is essential for cellular response to hypoxia. The underlying mechanism how HIF is constitutively activated in cancer cells remains elusive. In the present study, we characterized a regulatory feedback loop between HIF-1α and PIM2 in HepG2 cells. Serine/threonine kinase proto-oncogene PIM2 level was induced upon hypoxia in a HIF-1α-mediated manner in cancer cells. HIF-1α induced PIM2 expression via binding to the hypoxia-responsive elements (HREs) of the PIM2 promoter. In turn, PIM2 interacted with HIF-1α, especially a transactivation domain of HIF-1α. PIM2 as a co-factor but not an upstream kinase of HIF-1α, enhanced HIF-1α effect in response to hypoxia. The positive feedback loop between PIM2 and HIF-1α was correlated with glucose metabolism as well as cell survival in HepG2 cells. Such a regulatory mode may be important for the adaptive responses of cancer cells in antagonizing hypoxia during cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3914973  PMID: 24505470

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