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1.  Identification of small molecule compounds that inhibit the HIF-1 signaling pathway 
Molecular Cancer  2009;8:117.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2797767  PMID: 20003191
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  Putative role of HIF transcriptional activity in melanocytes and melanoma biology 
Dermato-endocrinology  2013;5(2):239-251.
Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) is a highly oxygen sensitive bHLH protein that is part of the heterodimeric HIF-1 transcription factor. Under hypoxic stress, HIF-1 activity is induced to control expression of multiple downstream target genes, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The normal epidermis exists in a constant mild hypoxic microenvironment and constitutively expresses HIF-1α and HIF-2α. Expression of HIF-1α and/or HIF-2α has been suggested to correlate with the increased malignant potential of melanocytes, therefore, failures of melanoma therapies may be partially linked to high HIF activity. Notably, melanomas that have the V600E BRAF mutation exhibit increased HIF-1α expression. We have utilized a bioinformatics approach to identify putative hypoxia response elements (HREs) in a set of genes known to participate in the process of melanogenesis (includingTRPM1, SLC45A2, HRAS, C-KIT, PMEL and CRH). While some of the mechanistic links between these genes and the HIF pathway have been previously explored, others await further investigation. Although agents targeting HIF activity have been proposed as novel treatment modalities for melanoma, there are currently no clinical trials in progress to test their efficacy in melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3772912  PMID: 24194964
HIF-1; keratinocytes; melanocytes; melanoma; oncogenesis; skin
7.  Synergistic Inhibition of Wnt Pathway by HIF-1α and Osteoblast-Specific Transcription Factor Osterix (Osx) in Osteoblasts 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52948.
Osterix (Osx) is an osteoblast-specific transcription factor required for osteoblast differentiation. Inhibition of Wnt pathway by Osx highlights the potential for feedback control mechanisms involved in bone formation. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) is a master regulator of hypoxia. HIF-1α has been reported to couple angiogenesis to osteogenesis. Our recent study has demonstrated that Osx and HIF-1α cooperatively regulate VEGF expression in osteoblasts. Effects of hypoxia/HIF-1α on osteoblast proliferation and related mechanisms are not well understood. In this study, osteoblast growth under hypoxia was examined. We observed that osteoblast growth was inhibited under hypoxia. To explore possible mechanisms for hypoxia/HIF-1α to inhibit osteoblast proliferation, we tested the effect of hypoxia/HIF-1α on Wnt pathway. Quantitative RT-PCR results revealed that Wnt target genes such as cyclin D1 and c-Myc were downregulated under hypoxia while HIF-1α was upregulated. Treatment of desferrioxamine, a HIF-1α activator, led to further downregulation of expressions of cyclin D1 and c-Myc in osteoblasts. On the contrary, the inhibition of HIF-1α by siRNA in osteoblasts led to the expression increase of cyclin D1 and c-Myc. These data suggest that HIF-1α inhibits Wnt pathway in osteoblasts. To examine the effect of HIF-1α on Wnt pathway, HIF-1α was cotransfected with β-catenin along with Topflash reporter in transient transfection assay. Our results showed that HIF-1α inhibited β-catenin-induced Topflash reporter activity. Interestingly, a synergistic interplay was observed between Osx and HIF-1α in the inhibition of β-catenin-induced Topflash expression. Our findings indicate that Osx and HIF-1α cooperatively inhibit Wnt pathway. This study revealed additional new information of the cooperation between HIF-1α and Osx in osteoblasts.
PMCID: PMC3531395  PMID: 23300831
8.  Hypoxia Promotes Uveal Melanoma Invasion through Enhanced Notch and MAPK Activation 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105372.
The transcriptional response promoted by hypoxia-inducible factors has been associated with metastatic spread of uveal melanoma. We found expression of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) protein in well-vascularized tumor regions as well as in four cell lines grown in normoxia, thus this pathway may be important even in well-oxygenated uveal melanoma cells. HIF-1α protein accumulation in normoxia was inhibited by rapamycin. As expected, hypoxia (1% pO2) further induced HIF-1α protein levels along with its target genes VEGF and LOX. Growth in hypoxia significantly increased cellular invasion of all 5 uveal melanoma lines tested, as did the introduction of an oxygen-insensitive HIF-1α mutant into Mel285 cells with low HIF-1α baseline levels. In contrast, HIF-1α knockdown using shRNA significantly decreased growth in hypoxia, and reduced by more than 50% tumor invasion in four lines with high HIF-1α baseline levels. Pharmacologic blockade of HIF-1α protein expression using digoxin dramatically suppressed cellular invasion both in normoxia and in hypoxia. We found that Notch pathway components, including Jag1-2 ligands, Hes1-Hey1 targets and the intracellular domain of Notch1, were increased in hypoxia, as well as the phosphorylation levels of Erk1-2 and Akt. Pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of Notch largely blocked the hypoxic induction of invasion as did the pharmacologic suppression of Erk1-2 activity. In addition, the increase in Erk1-2 and Akt phosphorylation by hypoxia was partially reduced by inhibiting Notch signaling. Our findings support the functional importance of HIF-1α signaling in promoting the invasive capacity of uveal melanoma cells in both hypoxia and normoxia, and suggest that pharmacologically targeting HIF-1α pathway directly or through blockade of Notch or Erk1-2 pathways can slow tumor spread.
PMCID: PMC4148307  PMID: 25166211
9.  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
10.  Enhanceosomes as integrators of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) and other transcription factors in the hypoxic transcriptional response 
Cellular signalling  2013;25(9):1895-1903.
Hypoxia is a prevalent attribute of the solid tumor microenvironment that promotes the expression of genes through posttranslational modifications and stabilization of alpha subunits (HIF1α and HIF2α) of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). Despite significant similarities, HIF1 (HIF1α/ARNT) and HIF2 (HIF2/ARNT) activate common as well as unique target genes and exhibit different functions in cancer biology. More surprisingly, accumulating data indicates that the HIF1- and/or HIF2-mediated hypoxia responses can be oncogenic as well as tumor suppressive. While the role of HIF in the hypoxia response is well established, recent data support the concept that HIF is necessary, but not sufficient for the hypoxic response. Other transcription factors that are activated by hypoxia are also required for the HIF-mediated hypoxia response. HIFs, other transcription factors, co-factors and RNA poll II recruited by HIF and other transcription factors form multifactoral enhanceosome complexes on the promoters of HIF target genes to activate hypoxia inducible genes. Importantly, HIF1 or HIF2 require distinct partners in activating HIF1 or HIF2 target genes. Because HIF enhanceosome formation is required for the gene activation and distinct functions of HIF1 and HIF2 in tumor biology, disruption of the HIF1 or HIF2 specific enhanceosome complex may prove to be a beneficial strategy in tumor treatment in which tumor growth is specifically dependent upon HIF1 or HIF2 activity.
PMCID: PMC3700616  PMID: 23707522
hypoxia; HIF; enhanceosome; transcription factors; tumor microenvironment; transcription
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  HIF-1α/GPER signaling mediates the expression of VEGF induced by hypoxia in breast cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) 
Carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play a pivotal role in cancer progression by contributing to invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis. Solid tumors possess a unique microenvironment characterized by local hypoxia, which induces gene expression changes and biological features leading to poor outcomes. Hypoxia Inducible Factor 1 (HIF-1) is the main transcription factor that mediates the cell response to hypoxia through different mechanisms that include the regulation of genes strongly associated with cancer aggressiveness. Among the HIF-1 target genes, the G-protein estrogen receptor (GPER) exerts a stimulatory role in diverse types of cancer cells and in CAFs.
We evaluated the regulation and function of the key angiogenic mediator vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in CAFs exposed to hypoxia. Gene expression studies, Western blotting analysis and immunofluorescence experiments were performed in CAFs and breast cancer cells in the presence of cobalt chloride (CoCl2) or cultured under low oxygen tension (2% O2), in order to analyze the involvement of the HIF-1α/GPER signaling in the biological responses to hypoxia. We also explored the role of the HIF-1α/GPER transduction pathway in functional assays like tube formation in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and cell migration in CAFs.
We first determined that hypoxia induces the expression of HIF-1α and GPER in CAFs, then we ascertained that the HIF-1α/GPER signaling is involved in the regulation of VEGF expression in breast cancer cells and in CAFs exposed to hypoxia. We also assessed by ChIP assay that HIF-1α and GPER are both recruited to the VEGF promoter sequence and required for VEGF promoter stimulation upon hypoxic condition. As a biological counterpart of these findings, conditioned medium from hypoxic CAFs promoted tube formation in HUVECs in a HIF-1α/GPER dependent manner. The functional cooperation between HIF-1α and GPER in CAFs was also evidenced in the hypoxia-induced cell migration, which involved a further target of the HIF-1α/GPER signaling like connective tissue growth factor (CTGF).
The present results provide novel insight into the role elicited by the HIF-1α/GPER transduction pathway in CAFs towards the hypoxia-dependent tumor angiogenesis. Our findings further extend the molecular mechanisms through which the tumor microenvironment may contribute to cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC3978922  PMID: 23947803
17.  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
18.  Understanding Hypoxia-Induced Gene Expression in Early Development: In Vitro and In Vivo Analysis of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1-Regulated Zebra Fish Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 1 Gene Expression 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(3):1142-1155.
Insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1 (IGFBP-1) is a hypoxia-inducible gene that plays an important role in regulating embryonic growth and development under hypoxic stress. The molecular mechanisms underlying hypoxia-induced IGFBP-1 gene expression in the embryonic tissues are not well understood. Here we report that the hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) pathway is established in early embryogenesis and mediates hypoxia-induced IGFBP-1 expression. Hypoxia increased the HIF-1 activity, and HIF-1α overexpression or CoCl2 treatment resulted in elevated IGFBP-1 expression in zebra fish embryos. Although the zebra fish IGFBP-1 promoter contains 13 consensus hypoxia response elements (HREs), deletion and mutational analysis revealed that only the HRE positioned at −1090/−1086 is required for the hypoxia and HIF-1 induction. Further experiments revealed that there is an HIF-1 ancillary sequence (HAS) adjacent only to the functional HRE. Mutation of this HAS greatly reduced the responsiveness of the IGFBP-1 promoter to hypoxia and HIF-1. The HAS does not directly bind to HIF-1 or affect the binding of the HRE to HIF-1. The HAS is bound to a nuclear protein(s), and this HAS binding activity is reduced by hypoxia. These results suggest that HIF-1 mediates hypoxia-induced IGFBP-1 gene expression in early development by selectively interacting with the −1090/−1086 HRE and its adjacent HAS.
PMCID: PMC1347021  PMID: 16428465
19.  Functional pathway mapping analysis for hypoxia-inducible factors 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5(Suppl 1):S3.
Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are transcription factors that play a crucial role in response to hypoxic stress in living organisms. The HIF pathway is activated by changes in cellular oxygen levels and has significant impacts on the regulation of gene expression patterns in cancer cells. Identifying functional conservation across species and discovering conserved regulatory motifs can facilitate the selection of reference species for empirical tests. This paper describes a cross-species functional pathway mapping strategy based on evidence of homologous relationships that employs matrix-based searching techniques for identifying transcription factor-binding sites on all retrieved HIF target genes.
HIF-related orthologous and paralogous genes were mapped onto the conserved pathways to indicate functional conservation across species. Quantitatively measured HIF pathways are depicted in order to illustrate the extent of functional conservation. The results show that in spite of the evolutionary process of speciation, distantly related species may exhibit functional conservation owing to conservative pathways. The novel terms OrthRate and ParaRate are proposed to quantitatively indicate the flexibility of a homologous pathway and reveal the alternative regulation of functional genes.
The developed functional pathway mapping strategy provides a bioinformatics approach for constructing biological pathways by highlighting the homologous relationships between various model species. The mapped HIF pathways were quantitatively illustrated and evaluated by statistically analyzing their conserved transcription factor-binding elements.
hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), hypoxia-response element (HRE), transcription factor (TF), transcription factor binding site (TFBS), KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes), cross-species comparison, orthology, paralogy, functional pathway
PMCID: PMC3121119  PMID: 21689478
20.  MTA1 and MTA3 Regulate HIF1a Expression in Hypoxia-Treated Human Trophoblast Cell Line HTR8/Svneo 
Hypoxia plays an important role in placental trophoblast differentiation and function during early pregnancy. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF1a) is known to regulate cellular adaption to hypoxic conditions. However, our current understanding of the role of HIF1a in trophoblast physiology is far from complete. Metastasis Associated Protein 1 and 3 (MTA1 and MTA3) are components of the Nucleosome Remodeling and Deacetylase (NuRD) complex, a chromatin remodeling complex, and are highly expressed in term placental trophoblasts. However, the role of MTA1 and MTA3 in the hypoxic placental environment of early pregnancy is unknown. In the present study, we examined the association among MTA1, MTA3 and HIF1a expression under hypoxic conditions in trophoblasts both in vivo and in vitro. We first investigated the localization of MTA1 and MTA3 with HIF1a expression in the placental trophoblast of 1st trimester placenta via immunohistochemistry. Our data reveals that under physiologically hypoxic environment, MTA1 and MTA3 along with HIF1a are highly expressed by villous trophoblasts. Next, we investigated the effect of hypoxia on these genes in vitro using the first trimester-derived HTR8/SVneo cell line and observed up-regulation of MTA1 and MTA3 as well as HIF1a protein following hypoxia treatment. To investigate the direct effect of MTA1 and MTA3 upon HIF1a, we over-expressed MTA1 and MTA3 genes in HTR8/SVneo cells respectively and examined protein levels of HIF1a via Western blot as well as HIF1a target gene expression using a luciferase assay driven by a hypoxia-response element promoter (HRE-luciferase). We found that over-expressions of MTA1 and MTA3 up-regulate both HIF1a protein level and HRE-luciferase activity under hypoxic condition. In summary, both MTA1 and MTA3 are induced by hypoxia and up-regulate HIF1a expression and HIF1a target gene expression in trophoblasts. These data suggest that MTA1 and MTA3 play critical roles in trophoblast function and differentiation during early pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC4332396
Chromatin remodeling; Trophoblast; Hypoxia
21.  The Hypoxia-Associated Factor Switches Cells from HIF-1α– to HIF-2α–Dependent Signaling Promoting Stem Cell Characteristics, Aggressive Tumor Growth and Invasion 
Cancer Research  2011;71(11):4015-4027.
Most solid tumors and their metastases experience periods of low oxygen or hypoxia, which is of major clinical significance as it promotes both tumor progression and resistance to therapy. Critical mediators of the hypoxic response are the hypoxia-inducible factors HIF-1α and HIF-2α. The HIFs are nonredundant and regulate both overlapping and unique downstream target genes. Here, we describe a novel mechanism for the switch between HIF-1α– and HIF-2α–dependent transcription during tumor hypoxia caused by the hypoxia associated factor (HAF). HAF is overexpressed in a variety of tumors and its levels are decreased during acute hypoxia, but increased following prolonged hypoxia. We have previously identified HAF as an E3 ubiquitin ligase that binds and ubiquitinates HIF-1α by an oxygen and pVHL-independent mechanism, thus targeting HIF-1α for proteasomal degradation. Here, we show that HAF also binds to HIF-2α, but at a different site than HIF-1α, and increases HIF-2α transactivation without causing its degradation. HAF, thus, switches the hypoxic response of the cancer cell from HIF-1α–dependent to HIF-2α–dependent transcription and activates genes involved in invasion such as MMP9, PAI-1, and the stem cell factor OCT-3/4. The switch to HIF-2α–dependent gene expression caused by HAF also promotes an enriched tumor stem cell population, resulting in highly aggressive tumors in vivo. Thus, HAF, by causing a switch from a HIF-1α– to HIF-2α–dependent response to hypoxia, provides a mechanism for more aggressive growth of tumors under prolonged hypoxia.
PMCID: PMC3268651  PMID: 21512133
22.  Differential effects of Th1 versus Th2 cytokines in combination with hypoxia on HIFs and angiogenesis in RA 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2012;14(4):R180.
Hypoxia and T-helper cell 1 (Th1) cytokine-driven inflammation are key features of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and contribute to disease pathogenesis by promoting angiogenesis. The objective of our study was to characterise the angiogenic gene signature of RA fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLS) in response to hypoxia, as well as Th1 and T-helper cell 2 (Th2) cytokines, and in particular to dissect out effects of combined hypoxia and cytokines on hypoxia inducible transcription factors (HIFs) and angiogenesis.
Human angiogenesis PCR arrays were used to screen cDNA from RA FLS exposed to hypoxia (1% oxygen) or dimethyloxalylglycine, which stabilises HIFs. The involvement of HIF isoforms in generating the angiogenic signature of RA FLS stimulated with hypoxia and/or cytokines was investigated using a DNA-binding assay and RNA interference. The angiogenic potential of conditioned media from hypoxia-treated and/or cytokine-treated RA FLS was measured using an in vitro endothelial-based assay.
Expression of 12 angiogenic genes was significantly altered in RA FLS exposed to hypoxia, and seven of these were changed by dimethyloxalylglycine, including ephrin A3 (EFNA3), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), adipokines angiopoietin-like (ANGPTL)-4 and leptin. These four proangiogenic genes were dependent on HIF-1 in hypoxia to various degrees: EFNA3 >ANGPTL-4 >VEGF >leptin. The Th1 cytokines TNFα and IL-1β induced HIF-1 but not HIF-2 transcription as well as activity, and this effect was additive with hypoxia. In contrast, Th2 cytokines had no effect on HIFs. IL-1β synergised with hypoxia to upregulate EFNA3 and VEGF in a HIF-1-dependent fashion but, despite strongly inducing HIF-1, TNFα suppressed adipokine expression and had minimal effect on EFNA3. Supernatants from RA FLS subjected to hypoxia and TNFα induced fewer endothelial tubules than those from FLS subjected to TNFα or hypoxia alone, despite high VEGF protein levels. The Th2 cytokine IL-4 strongly induced ANGPTL-4 and angiogenesis by normoxic FLS and synergised with hypoxia to induce further proangiogenic activity.
The present work demonstrates that Th1 cytokines in combination with hypoxia are not sufficient to induce angiogenic activity by RA FLS despite HIF-1 activation and VEGF production. In contrast, Th2 cytokines induce angiogenic activity in normoxia and hypoxia, despite their inability to activate HIFs, highlighting the complex relationships between hypoxia, angiogenesis and inflammation in RA.
PMCID: PMC3580575  PMID: 22866899
23.  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.
PMCID: PMC3929241  PMID: 24444333
Glucose transporter; Hypoxia; Hypoxia inducible factor; Lactation; Mammary development; Metabolism
24.  Myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mc1-1) is a candidate target gene of hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) in the testis 
Spermatic cord torsion can lead to testis ischemia (I) and subsequent ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) causing germ cell-specific apoptosis. Previously, we demonstrated that the hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) transcription factor, a key regulator of physiological responses to hypoxia, is abundant in Leydig cells in normoxic and ischemic testes. We hypothesize that testicular HIF-1 activates the expression of antiapoptotic target genes to protect Leydig cells from apoptosis. In silico analysis of testis genes containing a consensus hypoxia response element (HRE, 5’-RCGTG-3’) identified myeloid cell leukemia-1 (Mcl-1) as a potential HIF-1 target gene. The purpose of this study was to determine whether HIF-1 shows DNA-binding activity in normoxic and ischemic testes and whether Mcl-1 is a target gene of testicular HIF-1.
The testicular HIF-1 DNA-binding capacity was analyzed in vitro using a quantitative enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA). MCL-1 protein expression was evaluated by immunoblot analysis and immunohistochemistry. The binding of testicular HIF-1 to the Mcl-1 gene was examined via chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis.
The ELISA and EMSA assays demonstrated that testicular HIF-1 from normoxic and ischemic testes binds DNA equally strongly, suggesting physiological roles for HIF-1 in the normoxic testis, unlike most tissues in which HIF-1 is degraded under normoxic conditions and is only activated by hypoxia. MCL-1 protein was determined to be abundant in both normoxic and ischemic testes and expressed in Leydig cells. In a pattern identical to that of HIF-1 expression, the steady-state levels of MCL-1 were not significantly affected by I or I/R and MCL-1 co-localized with HIF-1α in Leydig cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis using a HIF-1 antibody revealed sequences enriched for the Mcl-1 promoter.
The results demonstrated that, unlike what is observed in most tissues, HIF-1 displays DNA-binding activity in both normoxic and ischemic testes, and Mcl-1 may be a key target gene of testicular HIF-1 with potential roles in the antiapoptotic protection of Leydig cells.
PMCID: PMC3556106  PMID: 23216940
Apoptosis; Torsion; Ischemia; Leydig cells
25.  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

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