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1.  Identification of small molecule compounds that inhibit the HIF-1 signaling pathway 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:117.
Background
Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is the major hypoxia-regulated transcription factor that regulates cellular responses to low oxygen environments. HIF-1 is composed of two subunits: hypoxia-inducible HIF-1α and constitutively-expressed HIF-1β. During hypoxic conditions, HIF-1α heterodimerizes with HIF-1β and translocates to the nucleus where the HIF-1 complex binds to the hypoxia-response element (HRE) and activates expression of target genes implicated in cell growth and survival. HIF-1α protein expression is elevated in many solid tumors, including those of the cervix and brain, where cells that are the greatest distance from blood vessels, and therefore the most hypoxic, express the highest levels of HIF-1α. Therapeutic blockade of the HIF-1 signaling pathway in cancer cells therefore provides an attractive strategy for development of anticancer drugs. To identify small molecule inhibitors of the HIF-1 pathway, we have developed a cell-based reporter gene assay and screened a large compound library by using a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) approach.
Results
The assay is based upon a β-lactamase reporter under the control of a HRE. We have screened approximate 73,000 compounds by qHTS, with each compound tested over a range of seven to fifteen concentrations. After qHTS we have rapidly identified three novel structural series of HIF-1 pathway Inhibitors. Selected compounds in these series were also confirmed as inhibitors in a HRE β-lactamase reporter gene assay induced by low oxygen and in a VEGF secretion assay. Three of the four selected compounds tested showed significant inhibition of hypoxia-induced HIF-1α accumulation by western blot analysis.
Conclusion
The use of β-lactamase reporter gene assays, in combination with qHTS, enabled the rapid identification and prioritization of inhibitors specific to the hypoxia induced signaling pathway.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-8-117
PMCID: PMC2797767  PMID: 20003191
2.  Hypoxia-Inducible Factor (HIF)-1 Regulatory Pathway and its Potential for Therapeutic Intervention in Malignancy and Ischemia 
Hypoxia-Inducible Factor (HIF)-1 is a dimeric protein complex that plays an integral role in the body's response to low oxygen concentrations, or hypoxia. HIF-1 is among the primary genes involved in the homeostatic process, which can increase vascularization in hypoxic areas such as localized ischemia and tumors. It is a transcription factor for dozens of target genes; HIF-1 is also essential for immunological responses and is a crucial physiological regulator of homeostasis, vascularization, and anaerobic metabolism. Furthermore, HIF-1 is increasingly studied because of its perceived therapeutic potential. As it causes angiogenesis, enhancement of this gene within ischemic patients could promote the vessel proliferation needed for oxygenation. In contrast, as HIF-1 allows for survival and proliferation of cancerous cells due to its angiogenic properties, inhibition potentially could prevent the spread of cancer. With a growing understanding of the HIF-1 pathway, the inhibition and stimulation of its transcriptional activity via small molecules is now an attractive goal. Gene therapy to achieve both vessel proliferation and tumor regression has been demonstrated in animal studies but requires significant improvement and modification before becoming commercially available. This review focuses on the potential of the HIF-1 pathway in therapeutic intervention for the treatment of diseases such as cancer and ischemia.
PMCID: PMC2140184  PMID: 18160990
3.  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.
doi:10.1038/cdd.2008.21
PMCID: PMC3050610  PMID: 18259193
hypoxia; cancer; HIF; metastasis
4.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.biocel.2013.07.025
PMCID: PMC3855297  PMID: 23958427
HIF-2α; EPO; SOD2; Hypoxia; Cobalt; USF2
5.  Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 2 Regulates Hepatic Lipid Metabolism▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(16):4527-4538.
In mammals, the liver integrates nutrient uptake and delivery of carbohydrates and lipids to peripheral tissues to control overall energy balance. Hepatocytes maintain metabolic homeostasis by coordinating gene expression programs in response to dietary and systemic signals. Hepatic tissue oxygenation is an important systemic signal that contributes to normal hepatocyte function as well as disease. Hypoxia-inducible factors 1 and 2 (HIF-1 and HIF-2, respectively) are oxygen-sensitive heterodimeric transcription factors, which act as key mediators of cellular adaptation to low oxygen. Previously, we have shown that HIF-2 plays an important role in both physiologic and pathophysiologic processes in the liver. HIF-2 is essential for normal fetal EPO production and erythropoiesis, while constitutive HIF-2 activity in the adult results in polycythemia and vascular tumorigenesis. Here we report a novel role for HIF-2 in regulating hepatic lipid metabolism. We found that constitutive activation of HIF-2 in the adult results in the development of severe hepatic steatosis associated with impaired fatty acid β-oxidation, decreased lipogenic gene expression, and increased lipid storage capacity. These findings demonstrate that HIF-2 functions as an important regulator of hepatic lipid metabolism and identify HIF-2 as a potential target for the treatment of fatty liver disease.
doi:10.1128/MCB.00200-09
PMCID: PMC2725738  PMID: 19528226
6.  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.
doi:10.1038/embor.2012.9
PMCID: PMC3323130  PMID: 22310300
FIH; HIF; hydroxylation; peroxide
7.  Hypoxia Inducible Factor Prolyl 4-Hydroxylase Enzymes: Center Stage in the Battle Against Hypoxia, Metabolic Compromise and Oxidative Stress 
Neurochemical research  2007;32(4-5):931-946.
Studies of adaptive mechanisms to hypoxia led to the discovery of the transcription factor called hypoxia inducible factor (HIF). HIF is a ubiquitously expressed, heterodimeric transcription factor that regulates a cassette of genes that can provide compensation for hypoxia, metabolic compromise, and oxidative stress including erythropoietin, vascular endothelial growth factor, or glycolytic enzymes. Diseases associated with oxygen deprivation and consequent metabolic compromise such as stroke or Alzheimer's disease may result from inadequate engagement of adaptive signaling pathways that culminate in HIF activation. The discovery that HIF stability and activation are governed by a family of dioxygenases called HIF prolyl 4 hydroxylases (PHDs) identified a new target to augment the transcriptional activity of HIF and thus the adaptive machinery that governs neuroprotection. PHDs lose activity when cells are deprived of oxygen, iron or 2-oxoglutarate. Inhibition of PHD activity triggers the cellular homeostatic response to oxygen and glucose deprivation by stabilizing HIF and other proteins. Herein, we discuss the possible role of PHDs in regulation of both HIF-dependent and -independent cell survival pathways in the nervous system with particular attention to the co-substrate requirements for these enzymes. The emergence of neuroprotective therapies that modulate genes capable of combating metabolic compromise is an affirmation of elegant studies done by John Blass and colleagues over the past five decades implicating altered metabolism in neurodegeneration.
doi:10.1007/s11064-006-9268-7
PMCID: PMC2576999  PMID: 17342411
Hypoxia inducible factor; Prolyl 4-hydroxylase; Transcriptional regulation; Neuroprotection; Iron chelation
8.  ADAPTIVE AND MALADAPTIVE CARDIORESPIRATORY RESPONSES TO CONTINUOUS AND INTERMITTENT HYPOXIA MEDIATED BY HYPOXIA-INDUCIBLE FACTORS 1 AND 2 
Physiological reviews  2012;92(3):967-1003.
Hypoxia is a fundamental stimulus that impacts cells, tissues, organs, and physiological systems. The discovery of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) and subsequent identification of other members of the HIF family of transcriptional activators has provided insight into the molecular underpinnings of oxygen homeostasis. This review focuses on the mechanisms of HIF activation and their roles in physiological and pathophysiological responses to hypoxia, with an emphasis on the cardiorespiratory systems. HIFs are heterodimers comprised of an O2-regulated HIF-1α or HIF-2α subunit and a constitutively expressed HIF-1β subunit. Induction of HIF activity under conditions of reduced O2 availability requires stabilization of HIF-1α and HIF-2α due to reduced prolyl hydroxylation, dimerization with HIF-1β, and interaction with coactivators due to decreased asparaginyl hydroxylation. Stimuli other than hypoxia, such as nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species, can also activate HIFs. HIF-1 and HIF-2 are essential for acute O2 sensing by the carotid body, and their coordinated transcriptional activation is critical for physiological adaptations to chronic hypoxia including erythropoiesis, vascularization, metabolic reprogramming, and ventilatory acclimatization. In contrast, intermittent hypoxia, which occurs in association with sleep-disordered breathing, results in an imbalance between HIF-1α and HIF-2α that causes oxidative stress, leading to cardiorespiratory pathology.
doi:10.1152/physrev.00030.2011
PMCID: PMC3893888  PMID: 22811423
9.  Endothelial HIF-2 mediates protection and recovery from ischemic kidney injury 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2014;124(6):2396-2409.
The hypoxia-inducible transcription factors HIF-1 and HIF-2 mediate key cellular adaptions to hypoxia and contribute to renal homeostasis and pathophysiology; however, little is known about the cell type–specific functions of HIF-1 and HIF-2 in response to ischemic kidney injury. Here, we used a genetic approach to specifically dissect the roles of endothelial HIF-1 and HIF-2 in murine models of hypoxic kidney injury induced by ischemia reperfusion or ureteral obstruction. In both models, inactivation of endothelial HIF increased injury-associated renal inflammation and fibrosis. Specifically, inactivation of endothelial HIF-2α, but not endothelial HIF-1α, resulted in increased expression of renal injury markers and inflammatory cell infiltration in the postischemic kidney, which was reversed by blockade of vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM1) and very late antigen-4 (VLA4) using monoclonal antibodies. In contrast, pharmacologic or genetic activation of HIF via HIF prolyl-hydroxylase inhibition protected wild-type animals from ischemic kidney injury and inflammation; however, these same protective effects were not observed in HIF prolyl-hydroxylase inhibitor–treated animals lacking endothelial HIF-2. Taken together, our data indicate that endothelial HIF-2 protects from hypoxia-induced renal damage and represents a potential therapeutic target for renoprotection and prevention of fibrosis following acute ischemic injury.
doi:10.1172/JCI69073
PMCID: PMC4092875  PMID: 24789906
10.  A Central Role for Hypoxic Signaling in Cartilage, Bone, and Hematopoiesis 
Current osteoporosis reports  2011;9(2):46-52.
Hypoxic signaling plays an essential role in maintaining oxygen homeostasis and cell survival. Hypoxia-inducible transcription factors HIF-1 and HIF-2 are central mediators of the cellular response to hypoxia by regulating the expression of genes controlling metabolic adaptation, oxygen delivery, and survival in response to oxygen deprivation. Recent studies have identified an important role for HIF-1 and HIF-2 in the regulation of skeletal development, bone formation, and regeneration, as well as joint formation and homeostasis. In addition, overexpression of HIF-1 and HIF-2 is clinically associated with osteosarcoma and osteoarthritis. Together, these findings implicate hypoxic signaling as a central regulator of bone biology and disease.
doi:10.1007/s11914-011-0047-2
PMCID: PMC4012534  PMID: 21360287
Hypoxia; Bone; VHL; HIF-1; HIF-2; Cartilage; Hematopoiesis; Osteoarthritis; Osteosarcoma; Osteogenesis; Angiogenesis; Osteoblast; Chondrocyte; Limb bud mesenchyme; Joint
11.  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.
doi:10.1215/S1152851704001115
PMCID: PMC1871894  PMID: 15831232
12.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057695
PMCID: PMC3581546  PMID: 23451260
13.  A Cyclic Peptide Inhibitor of HIF-1 Heterodimerization That Inhibits Hypoxia Signaling in Cancer Cells 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2013;135(28):10418-10425.
Hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a heterodimeric transcription factor that acts as the master regulator of cellular response to reduced oxygen levels, thus playing a key role in the adaptation, survival, and progression of tumors. Here we report cyclo-CLLFVY, identified from a library of 3.2 million cyclic hexapeptides using a genetically encoded high-throughput screening platform, as an inhibitor of the HIF-1α/HIF-1β protein–protein interaction in vitro and in cells. The identified compound inhibits HIF-1 dimerization and transcription activity by binding to the PAS-B domain of HIF-1α, reducing HIF-1-mediated hypoxia response signaling in a variety of cell lines, without affecting the function of the closely related HIF-2 isoform. The reported cyclic peptide demonstrates the utility of our high-throughput screening platform for the identification of protein–protein interaction inhibitors, and forms the starting point for the development of HIF-1 targeted cancer therapeutics.
doi:10.1021/ja402993u
PMCID: PMC3715890  PMID: 23796364
14.  HIF-1α and HIF-2α have divergent roles in colon cancer 
Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1 and HIF-2 are heterodimeric transcription factors that mediate the cellular response to hypoxia. Their key regulatory subunits, HIF-1α and HIF-2α, are induced similarly by hypoxia, but their functional roles in cancer may be distinct and isoform-specific. SW480 colon cancer cells with stable expression of siRNA to HIF-1α or HIF-2α or both were established. HIF-1α-deficient cells displayed lower rates of proliferation and migration, but HIF-2α-deficient cells exhibited enhanced anchorage independent growth in a soft agar assay. Xenograft studies revealed that HIF-1α deficiency inhibited overall tumor growth, whereas deficiency of HIF-2α stimulated tumor growth. In human colon cancer tissues, expression of HIF-1α and to a lesser extent, HIF-2α, was linked to upregulation of VEGF and tumor angiogenesis. However, loss of expression of HIF-2α but not HIF-1α was strongly correlated with advanced tumor stage. DNA microarray analysis identified distinct sets of HIF-1α and HIF-2α target genes that may explain these phenotypic differences. Collectively, these findings suggest that HIF isoforms may have differing cellular functions in colon cancer. In particular, HIF-1α promoted the growth of SW480 colon cancer cells but HIF-2α appeared to restrain growth. Consequently, therapeutic approaches that target HIF may need to consider these isoform-specific properties.
doi:10.1002/ijc.24032
PMCID: PMC2682346  PMID: 19030186
colon cancer; HIF; angiogenesis
15.  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.
doi:10.1016/j.cca.2008.05.002
PMCID: PMC2536516  PMID: 18505681
Hypoxia; hypoxia-inducible factor; transcriptional regulation; hypoxia-responsive element
16.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088301
PMCID: PMC3914973  PMID: 24505470
17.  Roles of Polo-like kinase 3 in suppressing tumor angiogenesis 
Angiogenesis is essential for promoting growth and metastasis of solid tumors by ensuring blood supply to the tumor mass. Targeting angiogenesis is therefore an attractive approach to therapeutic intervention of cancer. Tumor angiogenesis is a process that is controlled by a complex network of molecular components including sensors, signaling transducers, and effectors, leading to cellular responses under hypoxic conditions. Positioned at the center of this network are the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). HIF-1 is a major transcription factor that consists of two subunits, HIF-1α and HIF-1β. It mediates transcription of a spectrum of gene targets whose products are essential for mounting hypoxic responses. HIF-1α protein level is very low in the normoxic condition but is rapidly elevated under hypoxia. This dramatic change in the cellular HIF-1α level is primarily regulated through the proteosome-mediated degradation process. In the past few years, scientific progress has clearly demonstrated that HIF-1α phosphorylation is mediated by several families of protein kinases including GSK3β and ERKs both of which play crucial roles in the regulation of HIF-1α stability. Recent research progress has identified that Polo-like kinase 3 (Plk3) phosphorylates HIF-1α at two previously unidentified serine residues and that the Plk3-mediated phosphorylation of these residues results in destabilization of HIF-1α. Plk3 has also recently been found to phosphorylate and stabilize PTEN phosphatase, a known regulator of HIF-1α and tumor angiogenesis. Given the success of targeting protein kinases and tumor angiogenesis in anti-cancer therapies, Plk3 could be a potential molecular target for the development of novel and effective therapeutic agents for cancer treatment.
doi:10.1186/2162-3619-1-5
PMCID: PMC3506990  PMID: 23210979
Plk3; Tumor angiogenesis; Tumor suppression; HIF-1α; PTEN
18.  Emerging evidence of the physiological role of hypoxia in mammary development and lactation 
Hypoxia is a physiological or pathological condition of a deficiency of oxygen supply in the body as a whole or within a tissue. During hypoxia, tissues undergo a series of physiological responses to defend themselves against a low oxygen supply, including increased angiogenesis, erythropoiesis, and glucose uptake. The effects of hypoxia are mainly mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), which is a heterodimeric transcription factor consisting of α and β subunits. HIF-1β is constantly expressed, whereas HIF-1α is degraded under normal oxygen conditions. Hypoxia stabilizes HIF-1α and the HIF complex, and HIF then translocates into the nucleus to initiate the expression of target genes. Hypoxia has been extensively studied for its role in promoting tumor progression, and emerging evidence also indicates that hypoxia may play important roles in physiological processes, including mammary development and lactation. The mammary gland exhibits an increasing metabolic rate from pregnancy to lactation to support mammary growth, lactogenesis, and lactation. This process requires increasing amounts of oxygen consumption and results in localized chronic hypoxia as confirmed by the binding of the hypoxia marker pimonidazole HCl in mouse mammary gland. We hypothesized that this hypoxic condition promotes mammary development and lactation, a hypothesis that is supported by the following several lines of evidence: i) Mice with an HIF-1α deletion selective for the mammary gland have impaired mammary differentiation and lipid secretion, resulting in lactation failure and striking changes in milk compositions; ii) We recently observed that hypoxia significantly induces HIF-1α-dependent glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression in mammary epithelial cells, which may be responsible for the dramatic increases in glucose uptake and GLUT1 expression in the mammary gland during the transition period from late pregnancy to early lactation; and iii) Hypoxia and HIF-1α increase the phosphorylation of signal transducers and activators of transcription 5a (STAT5a) in mammary epithelial cells, whereas STAT5 phosphorylation plays important roles in the regulation of milk protein gene expression and mammary development. Based on these observations, hypoxia effects emerge as a new frontier for studying the regulation of mammary development and lactation.
doi:10.1186/2049-1891-5-9
PMCID: PMC3929241  PMID: 24444333
Glucose transporter; Hypoxia; Hypoxia inducible factor; Lactation; Mammary development; Metabolism
19.  Prodeath or Prosurvival: Two Facets of Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1 in Perinatal Brain Injury 
Experimental neurology  2008;216(1):7-15.
Hypoxia, which occurs in the brain when oxygen availability drops below the normal level, is a major cause of perinatal hypoxic-ischemic injury (HII). The transcriptional factor hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a key regulator in the pathophysiological response to the stress of hypoxia. Genes regulated by HIF-1 are involved in energy metabolism, erythropoiesis, angiogenesis, vasodilatation, cell survival and apoptosis. Compared with the adult brain, the neonatal brain is different in physiological structure, function, cellular composition and signaling pathways related gene activation and response after hypoxia. The purpose of this review is to determine if developmental susceptibility of the brain after hypoxic/ischemic injury is related to HIF-1a, which also plays a pivotal role in the normal brain development. HIF-1a regulates both prosurvival and prodeath responses in the neonatal brain and various mechanisms underlie the apparent contradictory effects, including duration of ischemic injury and severity, cell-types, and/or dependent on the nature of the stimulus after HII. Studies report an excessive induction of HIF-1 in the immature brain, which suggests that a cell death promoting role of HIF may prevail. Inhibition of HIF-1a and targeted activation of its prosurvival genes appear as a favorable therapeutic strategy. However, a better understanding of multifaceted HIF-1 function during brain development is required to explore potential targets for further therapeutic interventions in the neonate.
doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2008.10.016
PMCID: PMC2672430  PMID: 19041643
20.  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.
doi:10.1128/MCB.24.9.3918-3927.2004
PMCID: PMC387743  PMID: 15082785
21.  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.
doi:10.1007/s10456-012-9269-x
PMCID: PMC3661274  PMID: 22484908
Angiogenesis; ARNT; HIF; physiological hypoxia; endothelium
22.  The Critical Impact of HIF-1α on Gastric Cancer Biology 
Cancers  2013;5(1):15-26.
Hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) monitors the cellular response to the oxygen levels in solid tumors. Under hypoxia conditions, HIF-1α protein is stabilized and forms a heterodimer with the HIF-1β subunit. The HIF-1 complex activates the transcription of numerous target genes in order to adapt the hypoxic environment in human cancer cells. In gastric cancer patients, HIF-1α activation following extended hypoxia strongly correlates with an aggressive tumor phenotype and a poor prognosis. HIF-1α activation has been also reported to occur via hypoxia-independent mechanisms such as PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling and ROS production. This article argues for the critical roles of HIF-1α in glucose metabolism, carcinogenesis, angiogenesis, invasion, metastasis, cell survival and chemoresistance, focusing on gastric cancer.
doi:10.3390/cancers5010015
PMCID: PMC3730315  PMID: 24216696
HIF-1α; hypoxia; gastric cancer
23.  Endothelial HIF-2α regulates murine pathological angiogenesis and revascularization processes 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(4):1427-1443.
Localized tissue hypoxia is a consequence of vascular compromise or rapid cellular proliferation and is a potent inducer of compensatory angiogenesis. The oxygen-responsive transcriptional regulator hypoxia-inducible factor 2α (HIF-2α) is highly expressed in vascular ECs and, along with HIF-1α, activates expression of target genes whose products modulate vascular functions and angiogenesis. However, the mechanisms by which HIF-2α regulates EC function and tissue perfusion under physiological and pathological conditions are poorly understood. Using mice in which Hif2a was specifically deleted in ECs, we demonstrate here that HIF-2α expression is required for angiogenic responses during hindlimb ischemia and for the growth of autochthonous skin tumors. EC-specific Hif2a deletion resulted in increased vessel formation in both models; however, these vessels failed to undergo proper arteriogenesis, resulting in poor perfusion. Analysis of cultured HIF-2α–deficient ECs revealed cell-autonomous increases in migration, invasion, and morphogenetic activity, which correlated with HIF-2α–dependent expression of specific angiogenic factors, including delta-like ligand 4 (Dll4), a Notch ligand, and angiopoietin 2. By stimulating Dll4 signaling in cultured ECs or restoring Dll4 expression in ischemic muscle tissue, we rescued most of the HIF-2α–dependent EC phenotypes in vitro and in vivo, emphasizing the critical role of Dll4/Notch signaling as a downstream target of HIF-2α in ECs. These results indicate that HIF-1α and HIF-2α fulfill complementary, but largely nonoverlapping, essential functions in pathophysiological angiogenesis.
doi:10.1172/JCI57322
PMCID: PMC3314446  PMID: 22426208
24.  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.
doi:10.1128/MCB.23.24.9361-9374.2003
PMCID: PMC309606  PMID: 14645546
25.  Natural Product-Derived Small Molecule Activators of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1 (HIF-1) 
Current pharmaceutical design  2006;12(21):2673-2688.
Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a key mediator of oxygen homeostasis that was first identified as a transcription factor that is induced and activated by decreased oxygen tension. Upon activation, HIF-1 upregulates the transcription of genes that promote adaptation and survival under hypoxic conditions. HIF-1 is a heterodimer composed of an oxygen-regulated subunit known as HIF-1α and a constitutively expressed HIF-1β subunit. In general, the availability and activity of the HIF-1α subunit determines the activity of HIF-1. Subsequent studies have revealed that HIF-1 is also activated by environmental and physiological stimuli that range from iron chelators to hormones. Preclinical studies suggest that HIF-1 activation may be a valuable therapeutic approach to treat tissue ischemia and other ischemia/hypoxia-related disorders.
The focus of this review is natural product-derived small molecule HIF-1 activators. Natural products, relatively low molecular weight organic compounds produced by plants, animals, and microbes, have been and continue to be a major source of new drugs and molecular probes. The majority of known natural product-derived HIF-1 activators were discovered through pharmacological evaluation of specifically selected individual compounds. The combination of natural products chemistry with appropriate high-throughput screening bioassays could provide an alternative approach to discover novel natural product-derived HIF-1 activators. Potent natural product-derived HIF-1 activators that exhibit a low level of toxicity and side effects hold promise as new treatment options for diseases such as myocardial and peripheral ischemia, and as chemopreventative agents that could be used to reduce the level of ischemia/reperfusion injury following heart attack and stroke.
PMCID: PMC2907550  PMID: 16842166
HIF-1; Natural Product; Tissue Ischemia; Therapeutic Angiogenesis; Molecular-Target; Small Molecule Activator; Chemoprevention; Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury

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