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1.  Genetic deletion of the alternative isoform I.1 of HIF-1α in T cells enhances anti-bacterial immune response and improves survival in the model of bacterial peritonitis in mice 
European journal of immunology  2013;43(3):655-666.
Hypoxia-adenosinergic suppression and re-direction of the immune response has been implicated in the regulation of anti-pathogen and anti-tumor immunity, with Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) playing a major role. In this study, we investigated the role of isoform I.1, a quantitatively minor alternative isoform of HIF-1α, in anti-bacterial immunity and sepsis survival. By using the cecal ligation and puncture model of bacterial peritonitis we studied the function of I.1 isoform in T cells using mice with total I.1-isoform deficiency and mice with T cell-targeted I.1 knockdown. We found that genetic deletion of the I.1 isoform resulted in enhanced resistance to septic lethality, significantly reduced bacterial load in peripheral blood, increased M1 macrophage polarization, augmented levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in serum, and significantly decreased levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. Our data suggest an immunosuppressive role of the I.1 isoform in T cells during bacterial sepsis that was previously unrecognized. We interpret these data as indicative that activation-inducible isoform I.1 hinders the contribution of T cells to the anti-bacterial response by affecting M1/M2 macrophage polarization and microbicidal function.
PMCID: PMC3757952  PMID: 23208786
Animal models; Hypoxia-inducible Factor; Sepsis; T lymphocytes
2.  HIF-1α-Deficient Mice Have Increased Brain Injury after Neonatal Hypoxia-Ischemia 
Developmental Neuroscience  2009;31(5):452-458.
Evidence suggests that the activation of the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) may promote cell survival in hypoxic or ischemic brain. To help understand the role of HIF-1α in neonatal hypoxic-ischemic brain injury, mice with conditional neuron-specific inactivation of HIF-1α underwent hypoxia-ischemia (HI). Mice heterozygous for Cre recombinase under the control of the calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II promoter were bred with homozygous ‘floxed’ HIF-1α transgenic mice. The resulting litters produced mice with a forebrain predominant neuronal deletion of HIF-1α (HIF-1αΔ/Δ), as well as littermates without the deletion. In order to verify reduction of HIF-1α at postnatal day 7, HIF-1αΔ/Δ and wild-type mice were exposed to a hypoxic stimulus (8% oxygen) or room air for 1 h, followed by immediate collection of brain cortices for determination of HIF-1α expression. Results of Western blotting of mouse cortices exposed to hypoxia stimulus or room air confirmed that HIF-1αΔ/Δ cortex expressed a minimal amount of HIF-1α protein compared to wild-type cortex with the same hypoxic stimulus. Subsequently, pups underwent the Vannucci procedure of HI at postnatal day 7: unilateral ligation of the right common carotid artery followed by 30 min of hypoxia (8% oxygen). Immunofluorescent staining of brains 24 h after HI confirmed a relative lack of HIF-1α in the HIF-1αΔ/Δ cortex compared to the wild type, and that HIF-1α in the wild type is located in neurons. HIF-1α expression was determined in mouse cortex 24 h after HI. Histological analysis for the degree of injury was performed 5 days after HI. HIF-1α protein expression 24 h after HI showed a large increase of HIF-1α in the hypoxic-ischemic cortex of the wild-type compared to the hypoxic only cortex. Histological analysis revealed that HI injury was increased in the neuronally deficient HIF-1αΔ/Δ mouse brain (p < 0.05) and was more severe in the cortex. Genetic reduction of neuronal HIF-1α results in a worsening of injury after neonatal HI, with a region-specific role for HIF-1α in the setting of neonatal brain injury.
PMCID: PMC2820335  PMID: 19672073
Brain injury; Transcription factor; Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α; Neonatal hypoxia-ischemia
3.  HIF-1α expression regulates the bactericidal capacity of phagocytes 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(7):1806-1815.
Hypoxia is a characteristic feature of the tissue microenvironment during bacterial infection. Here we report on our use of conditional gene targeting to examine the contribution of hypoxia-inducible factor 1, α subunit (HIF-1α) to myeloid cell innate immune function. HIF-1α was induced by bacterial infection, even under normoxia, and regulated the production of key immune effector molecules, including granule proteases, antimicrobial peptides, nitric oxide, and TNF-α. Mice lacking HIF-1α in their myeloid cell lineage showed decreased bactericidal activity and failed to restrict systemic spread of infection from an initial tissue focus. Conversely, activation of the HIF-1α pathway through deletion of von Hippel–Lindau tumor-suppressor protein or pharmacologic inducers supported myeloid cell production of defense factors and improved bactericidal capacity. HIF-1α control of myeloid cell activity in infected tissues could represent a novel therapeutic target for enhancing host defense.
PMCID: PMC1159132  PMID: 16007254
4.  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
5.  Identification of Chemical Compounds that Induce HIF-1α Activity 
Toxicological Sciences  2009;112(1):153-163.
Cellular metabolism depends on the availability of oxygen and the major regulator of oxygen homeostasis is hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), a highly conserved transcription factor that plays an essential role in cellular and systemic homeostatic responses to hypoxia. HIF-1 is a heterodimeric transcription factor composed of hypoxia-inducible HIF-1α and constitutively expressed HIF-1β. Under hypoxic conditions, the two subunits dimerize, allowing translocation of the HIF-1 complex to the nucleus where it binds to hypoxia-response elements (HREs) and activates expression of target genes implicated in angiogenesis, cell growth, and survival. The HIF-1 pathway is essential to normal growth and development, and is involved in the pathophysiology of cancer, inflammation, and ischemia. Thus, there is considerable interest in identifying compounds that modulate the HIF-1 signaling pathway. To assess the ability of environmental chemicals to stimulate the HIF-1 signaling pathway, we screened a National Toxicology Program collection of 1408 compounds using a cell-based β-lactamase HRE reporter gene assay in a quantitative high-throughput screening (qHTS) format. Twelve active compounds were identified. These compounds were tested in a confirmatory assay for induction of vascular endothelial growth factor, a known hypoxia target gene, and confirmed compounds were further tested for their ability to mimic the effect of a reduced-oxygen environment on hypoxia-regulated promoter activity. Based on this testing strategy, three compounds (o-phenanthroline, iodochlorohydroxyquinoline, cobalt sulfate heptahydrate) were confirmed as hypoxia mimetics, whereas two compounds (7-diethylamino-4-methylcoumarin and 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracence) were found to interact with HIF-1 in a manner different from hypoxia. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of qHTS in combination with secondary assays for identification of HIF-1α inducers and for distinguishing among inducers based on their pattern of activated hypoxic target genes. Identification of environmental compounds having HIF-1α activation activity in cell-based assays may be useful for prioritizing chemicals for further testing as hypoxia-response inducers in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2910898  PMID: 19502547
cobalt sulfate heptahydrate; 7-diethylamino-4-methylcoumarin; 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracence; HIF-1α; inducers; iodochlorohydroxyquinoline; NTP 1408 compound library; o-phenanthroline; qHTS
6.  Hypoxia-Inducible Factor Directs POMC Gene to Mediate Hypothalamic Glucose Sensing and Energy Balance Regulation 
PLoS Biology  2011;9(7):e1001112.
Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) is a nuclear transcription factor that responds to environmental and pathological hypoxia to induce metabolic adaptation, vascular growth, and cell survival. Here we found that HIF subunits and HIF2α in particular were normally expressed in the mediobasal hypothalamus of mice. Hypothalamic HIF was up-regulated by glucose to mediate the feeding control of hypothalamic glucose sensing. Two underlying molecular pathways were identified, including suppression of PHDs by glucose metabolites to prevent HIF2α degradation and the recruitment of AMPK and mTOR/S6K to regulate HIF2α protein synthesis. HIF activation was found to directly control the transcription of POMC gene. Genetic approach was then employed to develop conditional knockout mice with HIF inhibition in POMC neurons, revealing that HIF loss-of-function in POMC neurons impaired hypothalamic glucose sensing and caused energy imbalance to promote obesity development. The metabolic effects of HIF in hypothalamic POMC neurons were independent of leptin signaling or pituitary ACTH pathway. Hypothalamic gene delivery of HIF counteracted overeating and obesity under conditions of nutritional excess. In conclusion, HIF controls hypothalamic POMC gene to direct the central nutrient sensing in regulation of energy and body weight balance.
Author Summary
The hypothalamus in the brain is a master regulator of feeding and body weight. The regulation of it is mediated by the ability of the hypothalamus to sense nutrients (most importantly glucose) and hormones (such as insulin and leptin). While hormone has been extensively studied, we know less about how the hypothalamus can sense nutrients. It is also unclear whether changes in hypothalamic nutrient sensing can influence the development of obesity and related disease, and could therefore be targeted for disease intervention. In this study, we show that a protein termed hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) is normally present in the hypothalamus and able to respond to glucose. This glucose response leads to the up-regulation of a hypothalamic neuropeptide, POMC, a pivotal molecule that controls feeding and body weight balance. We then developed a mouse model in which HIF is disrupted in hypothalamic cells that express POMC. These mice displayed reduced hypothalamic sensitivity to glucose, resulting in overeating and susceptibility to obesity. Furthermore, we found that delivery of the HIF gene into the hypothalamus has strong anti-obesity effects in mice. We conclude that HIF is a molecular mediator of hypothalamic glucose sensing and can be potentially targeted for obesity therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3144184  PMID: 21814490
7.  The glial cell response is an essential component of hypoxia-induced erythropoiesis in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(11):3373-3383.
A key adaptation to environmental hypoxia is an increase in erythropoiesis, driven by the hormone erythropoietin (EPO) through what is traditionally thought to be primarily a renal response. However, both neurons and astrocytes (the largest subpopulation of glial cells in the CNS) also express EPO following ischemic injury, and this response is known to ameliorate damage to the brain. To investigate the role of glial cells as a component of the systemic response to hypoxia, we created astrocyte-specific deletions of the murine genes encoding the hypoxia-inducible transcription factors HIF-1α and HIF-2α and their negative regulator von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) as well as astrocyte-specific deletion of the HIF target gene Vegf. We found that loss of the hypoxic response in astrocytes does not cause anemia in mice but is necessary for approximately 50% of the acute erythropoietic response to hypoxic stress. In accord with this, erythroid progenitor cells and reticulocytes were substantially reduced in number in mice lacking HIF function in astrocytes following hypoxic stress. Thus, we have demonstrated that the glial component of the CNS is an essential component of hypoxia-induced erythropoiesis.
PMCID: PMC2769183  PMID: 19809162
8.  Hypoxia-Inducible Factors Regulate Tumorigenic Capacity of Glioma Stem Cells 
Cancer cell  2009;15(6):501-513.
Glioblastomas are lethal cancers characterized by florid angiogenesis promoted in part by glioma stem cells (GSCs). As hypoxia regulates angiogenesis, we examined hypoxic responses in GSCs. We now demonstrate that hypoxia-inducible factor HIF2α and multiple HIF-regulated genes are preferentially expressed in GSCs in comparison to nonstem tumor cells and normal neural progenitors. In tumor specimens, HIF2α co-localizes with cancer stem cell markers. Targeting HIFs in GSCs inhibits self-renewal, proliferation and survival in vitro, and attenuates tumor initiation potential of GSCs in vivo. Analysis of a molecular database reveals that HIF2A expression correlates with poor glioma patient survival. Our results demonstrate that GSCs differentially respond to hypoxia with distinct HIF induction patterns and HIF2α may represent a promising target for anti-glioblastoma therapies.
Recent evidence supports the presence of cancer stem cell populations that contribute to tumor progression through preferential resistance to radiation and chemotherapy, and promotion of tumor angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis. Therefore, the elucidation of molecular regulators of cancer stem cells may translate into improved anti-neoplastic therapies. Our work demonstrates that cancer stem cells derived from glioblastomas differentially respond to hypoxia with a distinct induction of HIF2α. We find that HIFs are critical to cancer stem cell maintenance and angiogenic drive, and that expression of HIF2α is significantly associated with poor glioma patient survival. These data further suggest that anti-angiogenic therapies can be designed to target cancer stem cell specific molecules involved in neoangiogenesis, including HIF2α and its regulated factors.
PMCID: PMC2693960  PMID: 19477429
9.  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
10.  Deletion of HIF-1α partially rescues the abnormal hyaloid vascular system in Cited2 conditional knockout mouse eyes 
Molecular Vision  2012;18:1260-1270.
Cited2 (CBP/p300-interacting transactivators with glutamic acid (E) and aspartic acid (D)-rich tail 2) is a member of a new family of transcriptional modulators. Cited2 null embryos exhibit hyaloid hypercellularity consisting of aberrant vasculature in the eye. The purpose of the study is to address whether abnormal lenticular development is a primary defect of Cited2 deletion and whether deletion of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1α or an HIF-1α target gene, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), could rescue abnormal hyaloid vascular system (HVS) in Cited2 deficient adult eyes.
Le-Cre specific Cited2 knockout (Cited2CKO) mice with or without deletion of HIF-1α or VEGF were generated by standard Cre-Lox methods. Eyes collected from six-eight weeks old mice were characterized by Real Time PCR and immunohistological staining.
Cited2CKO mice had smaller lenses, abnormal lens stalk formation, and failed regression of the HVS in the adult eye. The eye phenotype had features similar to persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV), a human congenital eye disorder leading to abnormal lenticular development. Deletion of HIF-1α or VEGF in Cited2 knockout eyes partially rescued the abnormal HVS but had no effect on the smaller lens and abnormal lens stalk differentiation. Intravitreal injection of Topotecan (TPT), a compound that inhibits HIF-1α expression, partially eliminated HVS defects in Cited2CKO lenses.
Abnormal HVS is a primary defect in Cited2 knockout mice, resulting in part from dysregulated functions of HIF-1 and VEGF. The Cited2CKO mouse line could be used as a novel disease model for PHPV and as an in vivo model for testing potential HIF-1 inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3365139  PMID: 22665973
11.  Disruption of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 in Adipocytes Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Decreases Adiposity in High-Fat Diet–Fed Mice 
Diabetes  2011;60(10):2484-2495.
Obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes form a tightly correlated cluster of metabolic disorders in which adipose is one of the first affected tissues. The role of hypoxia and hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF1) in the development of high-fat diet (HFD)–induced obesity and insulin resistance was investigated using animal models.
Mice with adipocyte-specific targeted disruption of the genes encoding the HIF1 obligatory subunits Hif1α or Arnt (Hif1β) were generated using an aP2-Cre transgene with the Cre/LoxP system. The mice were fed an HFD for 12 weeks and their metabolic phenotypes were determined. Gene expression patterns in adipose tissues were also determined by microarray and quantitative PCR.
On an HFD, adipocyte-specific ARNT knockout mice and adipocyte-specific HIF1α knockout mice exhibit similar metabolic phenotypes, including reduced fat formation, protection from HFD-induced obesity, and insulin resistance compared with similarly fed wild-type controls. The cumulative food intake remained similar; however, the metabolic efficiency was lower in adipocyte-specific HIF1α knockout mice. Moreover, indirect calorimetry revealed respiratory exchange ratios were reduced in adipocyte-specific HIF1α knockout mice. Hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp studies demonstrated that targeted disruption of HIF1α in adipocytes enhanced whole-body insulin sensitivity. The improvement of insulin resistance is associated with decreased expression of Socs3 and induction of adiponectin.
Inhibition of HIF1 in adipose tissue ameliorates obesity and insulin resistance. This study reveals that HIF1 could provide a novel potential therapeutic target for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3178277  PMID: 21873554
12.  LOX-1 Deletion Improves Neutrophil Responses, Enhances Bacterial Clearance, and Reduces Lung Injury in a Murine Polymicrobial Sepsis Model ▿ 
Infection and Immunity  2011;79(7):2865-2870.
Inflammatory tissue injury and immunosuppression are the major causes of death in sepsis. Novel therapeutic targets that can prevent excessive inflammation and improve immune responses during sepsis could be critical for treatment of this devastating disease. LOX-1 (lectin-like oxidized low-density lipoprotein receptor-1), a membrane protein expressed in endothelial cells, has been known to mediate vascular inflammation. In the present study, we demonstrated that LOX-1 deletion markedly improved the survival rate in a murine model of polymicrobial sepsis. Wild-type (LOX-1+/+) and LOX-1 knockout (LOX-1−/−) mice were subjected to cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) to induce sepsis. LOX-1 deletion significantly reduced systemic inflammation and inflammatory lung injury during sepsis, together with decreased production of proinflammatory cytokines and reduced lung edema formation. Furthermore, LOX-1 deletion improved host immune responses after the induction of sepsis, as indicated by enhanced bacterial clearance. Interestingly, we were able to demonstrate that LOX-1 is expressed in neutrophils. LOX-1 deletion prevented neutrophil overreaction and increased neutrophil recruitment to infection sites after sepsis induction, contributing at least partly to increased immune responses in LOX-1 knockout mice. Our study results indicate that LOX-1 is an important mediator of inflammation and neutrophil dysfunction in sepsis.
PMCID: PMC3191957  PMID: 21576343
13.  Hypoxia promotes fibrogenesis in vivo via HIF-1 stimulation of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2007;117(12):3810-3820.
Hypoxia has been proposed as an important microenvironmental factor in the development of tissue fibrosis; however, the underlying mechanisms are not well defined. To examine the role of hypoxia-inducible factor–1 (HIF-1), a key mediator of cellular adaptation to hypoxia, in the development of fibrosis in mice, we inactivated Hif-1α in primary renal epithelial cells and in proximal tubules of kidneys subjected to unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) using Cre-loxP–mediated gene targeting. We found that Hif-1α enhanced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in vitro and induced epithelial cell migration through upregulation of lysyl oxidase genes. Genetic ablation of epithelial Hif-1α inhibited the development of tubulointerstitial fibrosis in UUO kidneys, which was associated with decreased interstitial collagen deposition, decreased inflammatory cell infiltration, and a reduction in the number of fibroblast-specific protein–1–expressing (FSP-1–expressing) interstitial cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate that increased renal HIF-1α expression is associated with tubulointerstitial injury in patients with chronic kidney disease. Thus, we provide clinical and genetic evidence that activation of HIF-1 signaling in renal epithelial cells is associated with the development of chronic renal disease and may promote fibrogenesis by increasing expression of extracellular matrix–modifying factors and lysyl oxidase genes and by facilitating EMT.
PMCID: PMC2082142  PMID: 18037992
14.  Transient Ureteral Obstruction Prevents against Kidney Ischemia/Reperfusion Injury via Hypoxia-Inducible Factor (HIF)-2α Activation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29876.
Although the protective effect of transient ureteral obstruction (UO) prior to ischemia on subsequent renal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury has been documented, the underlying molecular mechanism remains to be understood. We showed in the current study that 24 h of UO led to renal tubular hypoxia in the ipsilateral kidney in mice, with the accumulation of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-2α, which lasted for a week after the release of UO. To address the functions of HIF-2α in UO-mediated protection of renal IRI, we utilized the Mx-Cre/loxP recombination system to knock out target genes. Inactivation of HIF-2α, but not HIF-1α blunted the renal protective effects of UO, as demonstrated by much higher serum creatinine level and severer histological damage. UO failed to prevent postischemic neutrophil infiltration and apoptosis induction in HIF-2α knockout mice, which also diminished the postobstructive up-regulation of the protective molecule, heat shock protein (HSP)-27. The renal protective effects of UO were associated with the improvement of the postischemic recovery of intra-renal microvascular blood flow, which was also dependent on the activation of HIF-2α. Our results demonstrated that UO protected the kidney via activation of HIF-2α, which reduced tubular damages via preservation of adequate renal microvascular perfusion after ischemia. Thus, preconditional HIF-2α activation might serve as a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of ischemic acute renal failure.
PMCID: PMC3266244  PMID: 22295069
15.  Sphingosine-1-Phosphate as a Regulator of Hypoxia-Induced Factor-1α in Thyroid Follicular Carcinoma Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66189.
Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) is a bioactive lipid, which regulates several cancer-related processes including migration and angiogenesis. We have previously shown S1P to induce migration of follicular ML-1 thyroid cancer cells. Hypoxia-induced factor-1 (HIF-1) is an oxygen-sensitive transcription factor, which adapts cells to hypoxic conditions through increased survival, motility and angiogenesis. Due to these properties and its increased expression in response to intratumoral hypoxia, HIF-1 is considered a significant regulator of tumor biology. We found S1P to increase expression of the regulatory HIF-1α subunit in normoxic ML-1 cells. S1P also increased HIF-1 activity and expression of HIF-1 target genes. Importantly, inhibition or knockdown of HIF-1α attenuated the S1P-induced migration of ML-1 cells. S1P-induced HIF-1α expression was mediated by S1P receptor 3 (S1P3), Gi proteins and their downstream effectors MEK, PI3K, mTOR and PKCβI. Half-life measurements with cycloheximide indicated that S1P treatment stabilized the HIF-1α protein. On the other hand, S1P activated translational regulators eIF-4E and p70S6K, which are known to control HIF-1α synthesis. In conclusion, we have identified S1P as a non-hypoxic regulator of HIF-1 activity in thyroid cancer cells, studied the signaling involved in S1P-induced HIF-1α expression and shown S1P-induced migration to be mediated by HIF-1.
PMCID: PMC3688870  PMID: 23824493
16.  Treatment regimen determines whether an HIF-1 inhibitor enhances or inhibits the effect of radiation therapy 
British Journal of Cancer  2009;100(5):747-757.
Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) has been reported to promote tumour radioresistance; therefore, it is recognised as an excellent target during radiation therapy. However, the inhibition of HIF-1 in unsuitable timing can suppress rather than enhance the effect of radiation therapy because its anti-angiogenic effect increases the radioresistant hypoxic fraction. In this study, we imaged changes of HIF-1 activity after treatment with radiation and/or an HIF-1 inhibitor, YC-1, and optimised their combination. Hypoxic tumour cells were reoxygenated 6 h postirradiation, leading to von Hippel-Lindau (VHL)-dependent proteolysis of HIF-1α and a resultant decrease in HIF-1 activity. The activity then increased as HIF-1α accumulated in the reoxygenated regions 24 h postirradiation. Meanwhile, YC-1 temporarily but significantly suppressed HIF-1 activity, leading to a decrease in microvessel density and an increase in tumour hypoxia. On treatment with YC-1 and then radiation, the YC-1-mediated increase in tumour hypoxia suppressed the effect of radiation therapy, whereas on treatment in the reverse order, YC-1 suppressed the postirradiation upregulation of HIF-1 activity and consequently delayed tumour growth. These results indicate that treatment regimen determines whether an HIF-1 inhibitor enhances or inhibits the therapeutic effect of radiation, and the suppression of the postirradiation upregulation of HIF-1 activity is important for the best therapeutic benefit.
PMCID: PMC2653764  PMID: 19223896
radiation therapy; tumour hypoxia; hypoxia-inducible factor-1; molecular imaging
17.  Disruption of the Arnt gene in endothelial cells causes hepatic vascular defects and partial embryonic lethality 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2006;44(3):550-560.
Vascular endothelial cells (ECs) play a critical role in angiogenesis and organogenesis, especially in embryonic liver development. Hypoxia inducible transcription factors (Hif) are a key trigger for hypoxic signals, a primary stimulus for angiogenesis. Aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (Arnt), also called Hif-1β, serves as an obligate heterodimerization partner for Hif-1α and Hif-2α. Using Cre-Lox technology the mouse Arnt gene, specifically disrupted in endothelial cells. The resulting mice, designated ArntΔEC, developed impaired hepatic vasculature, liver necrosis and cardiac myocyte degenerative lesions at the late embryonic stage (E16.5–18.5) leading to approximately 90% neonatal lethality. Low serum glucose, down-regulation of glucose transporter-1 and glucose 6- phosphatase mRNAs, and hepatic proliferation were observed in ArntΔEC embryos. Magnetic resonance imaging on E16.5 embryonic livers revealed that ArntΔEC mice had significant volume of avascular region. ArntΔEC mice that survived to the adult stage were fertile, showed normal behavioral activity, but had smaller livers with mild portal fibrosis, dilated blood vessels, extra abnormal collagen accumulation and remarkable iron deposition. ArntΔEC mice had reduced adiposity, impaired serum lipid homeostasis, and a higher respiratory exchange ratio, indicating that they utilize relatively more carbohydrates than their ArntF/F counterparts. In conclusion, the endothelial Arnt plays a pivotal role in embryonic liver development. Adult ArntΔEC mice carrying embryonic hepatic defects, developed a possible early stage of cirrhosis with consequences of limited oxygen availability and altered lipid metabolism.
PMCID: PMC1559728  PMID: 16941684
aryl hydrocarbon receptor; hypoxia inducible factor; endothelial cell; magnetic resonance imaging
18.  Defective Brain Development in Mice Lacking the Hif-1α Gene in Neural Cells 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(19):6739-6749.
Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) is essential for vascular development during embryogenesis and pathogenesis. However, little is known about its role in brain development. To investigate the function of HIF-1α in the central nervous system, a conditional knockout mouse was made with the Cre/LoxP system with a nestin promoter-driven Cre. Neural cell-specific HIF-1α-deficient mice exhibit hydrocephalus accompanied by a reduction in neural cells and an impairment of spatial memory. Apoptosis of neural cells coincided with vascular regression in the telencephalon of mutant embryos, and these embryonic defects were successfully restored by in vivo gene delivery of HIF-1α to the embryos. These results showed that expression of HIF-1α in neural cells was essential for normal development of the brain and established a mouse model that would be useful for the evaluation of therapeutic strategies for ischemia, including hypoxia-mediated hydrocephalus.
PMCID: PMC193947  PMID: 12972594
19.  Inhibition of SIRT1 Impairs the Accumulation and Transcriptional Activity of HIF-1α Protein under Hypoxic Conditions 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33433.
Sirtuins and hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIF) have well-established roles in regulating cellular responses to metabolic and oxidative stress. Recent reports have linked these two protein families by demonstrating that sirtuins can regulate the activity of HIF-1 and HIF-2. Here we investigated the role of SIRT1, a NAD+-dependent deacetylase, in the regulation of HIF-1 activity in hypoxic conditions. Our results show that in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines, hypoxia did not alter SIRT1 mRNA or protein expression, whereas it predictably led to the accumulation of HIF-1α and the up-regulation of its target genes. In hypoxic models in vitro and in in vivo models of systemic hypoxia and xenograft tumor growth, knockdown of SIRT1 protein with shRNA or inhibition of its activity with small molecule inhibitors impaired the accumulation of HIF-1α protein and the transcriptional increase of its target genes. In addition, endogenous SIRT1 and HIF-1α proteins co-immunoprecipitated and loss of SIRT1 activity led to a hyperacetylation of HIF-1α. Taken together, our data suggest that HIF-1α and SIRT1 proteins interact in HCC cells and that HIF-1α is a target of SIRT1 deacetylase activity. Moreover, SIRT1 is necessary for HIF-1α protein accumulation and activation of HIF-1 target genes under hypoxic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3316573  PMID: 22479397
20.  HIF-1α Is Essential for Effective PMN Bacterial Killing, Antimicrobial Peptide Production and Apoptosis in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Keratitis 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(7):e1003457.
Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α, is a transcription factor that controls energy metabolism and angiogenesis under hypoxic conditions, and a potent regulator of innate immunity. The studies described herein examined the role of HIF-1α in disease resolution in BALB/c (resistant, cornea heals) mice after ocular infection with Pseudomonas (P.) aeruginosa. Furthermore, the current studies focused on the neutrophil (PMN), the predominant cell infiltrate in keratitis. Using both siRNA and an antagonist (17-DMAG), the role of HIF-1α was assessed in P. aeruginosa-infected BALB/c mice. Clinical score and slit lamp photography indicated HIF-1α inhibition exacerbated disease and corneal destruction. Real time RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, ELISA, Greiss and MPO assays, bacterial load, intracellular killing, phagocytosis and apoptosis assays further tested the regulatory role of HIF-1α. Despite increased pro-inflammatory cytokine expression and increased MPO levels after knocking down HIF-1α expression, in vivo studies revealed a decrease in NO production and higher bacterial load. In vitro studies using PMN provided evidence that although inhibition of HIF-1α did not affect phagocytosis, both bacterial killing and apoptosis were significantly affected, as was production of antimicrobial peptides. Overall, data provide evidence that inhibition of HIF-1α converts a normally resistant disease response to susceptible (corneal thinning and perforation) after induction of bacterial keratitis. Although this inhibition does not appear to affect PMN transmigration or phagocytosis, both in vivo and in vitro approaches indicate that the transcriptional factor is essential for effective bacterial killing, apoptosis and antimicrobial peptide production.
Author Summary
Infections of the eye, especially the cornea, often result in vision loss and may require corneal transplantation. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common, opportunistic bacterium that can infect the cornea, especially in extended wear contact lens users. There are more than 30 million such individuals in the US alone and they account for over 40% of corneal bacterial infection (keratitis) cases. The cornea itself is a specialized tissue that must effectively combat infections, while preserving intact visual acuity. Using various techniques to mimic in an animal model, what can occur in the human eye, we test how cells and molecules of the immune response react to the bacteria, leading to either its eradication or blindness. By better understanding the functions of the immune system during infection, rational design of more effective treatments for this disease, which preserve a patient's eyesight, are feasible. In addition, what we have learned about the different cells and molecules of the immune response in the eye may be applicable to other infectious diseases, as well.
PMCID: PMC3715414  PMID: 23874197
21.  Inhibition of Siah ubiquitin ligase function 
Oncogene  2008;28(2):289-296.
Tumor hypoxia induces the up-regulation of Hif-1alpha which in turn induces the expression of genes including VEGF to recruit new blood vessel outgrowth, enabling tumor growth and metastasis. Interference with the Hif-1 pathway and neoangiogenesis is an attractive anti-tumor target. The hydroxylation of Hif-1alpha by PHD proteins during normoxia serves as a recognition motif for its proteasomal degradation. However, under hypoxic conditions, hydroxylation is inhibited and furthermore, PHD proteins are themselves poly-ubiquitylated and degraded by Siah ubiqiuitin ligases. Our data demonstrate for the first time that inhibition of the interaction between Siah and PHD proteins using a peptide derived from a Drosophila protein interferes with the PHD degradation. Furthermore, cells stably expressing the inhibitor display reduced up-regulation of Hif-1alpha protein levels and Hif-1 mediated gene expression under hypoxia. In a syngeneic mouse model of breast cancer, the inhibitor reduced tumor growth and neoangiogenesis and prolonged survival of the mice. In addition, levels of Hif-1alpha and its target Glut-1 are reduced in the inhibitor expressing tumors. These data demonstrate, in a proof-of-principle study, that Siah protein, the most upstream component of the hypoxia pathway yet identified, is a viable drug target for anti-tumor therapies.
PMCID: PMC3000903  PMID: 18850011
22.  Hypoxia-inducible factors as essential regulators of inflammation 
Myeloid cells provide important functions in low oxygen (O2) environments created by pathophysiological conditions, including sites of infection, inflammation, tissue injury and solid tumors. Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are principle regulators of hypoxic adaptation, regulating gene expression involved in glycolysis, erythropoiesis, angiogenesis, proliferation and stem cell function under low O2. Interestingly, increasing evidence accumulated over recent years suggests an additional important regulatory role for HIFs in inflammation. In macrophages, HIFs not only regulate glycolytic energy generation, but also optimize innate immunity, control pro-inflammatory gene expression, mediate bacterial killing and influence cell migration. In neutrophils, HIF-1α promotes survival under O2-deprived conditions and mediates blood vessel extravasation by modulating β2 integrin expression. Additionally, HIFs contribute to inflammatory functions in various other components of innate immunity, such as dendritic cells, mast cells and epithelial cells. This review will dissect the role of each HIF isoform in myeloid cell function and discuss their impact on acute and chronic inflammatory disorders. Currently, intensive studies are being conducted to illustrate the connection between inflammation and tumorigenesis. Detailed investigation revealing interaction between microenvironmental factors such as hypoxia and immune cells is needed. We will also discuss how hypoxia and HIFs control properties of tumor-associated macrophages and their relationship to tumor formation and progression.
PMCID: PMC3144567  PMID: 20517715
23.  Inhibition of ARNT severely compromises endothelial cell viability and function in response to moderate hypoxia 
Angiogenesis  2012;15(3):409-420.
Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF) is a master heterodimeric transcriptional regulator of oxygen (O2) homeostasis critical to proper angiogenic responses. Due to the distinctive coexpression of HIF-1α and HIF-2α subunits in endothelial cells, our goal was to examine the genetic elimination of HIF transcriptional activity in response to physiological hypoxic conditions by using a genetic model in which the required HIF-β subunit (ARNT, Aryl hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator) to HIF transcriptional responses was depleted. Endothelial cells (ECs) and aortic explants were isolated from ArntloxP/loxP mice and infected with Adenovirus -Cre/GFP or control -GFP. We observed that moderate levels of 2.5% O2 promoted vessel sprouting, growth, and branching in control aortic ring assays while growth from Adenovirus -Cre infected explants was compromised. Primary Adenovirus -Cre infected EC cultures featured adverse migration and tube formation phenotypes. Primary pulmonary or cardiac ARNT-deleted ECs also failed to proliferate and survive in response to 8 or 2.5% O2 and hydrogen peroxide treatment. Our data demonstrates that ARNT promotes EC migration and vessel outgrowth and indispensible for the proliferation and preservation of ECs in response to the physiological environmental cue of hypoxia. Thus, these results demonstrate that ARNT plays a critical intrinsic role in ECs and support a critical role for the collaboration of HIF-1 and HIF-2 transcriptional activity in these cells.
PMCID: PMC3661274  PMID: 22484908
Angiogenesis; ARNT; HIF; physiological hypoxia; endothelium
24.  STAT3 and HIF1α cooperatively activate HIF1 target genes in MDA-MB-231 and RCC4 cells 
Oncogene  2013;33(13):1670-1679.
Solid tumors often exhibit simultaneously inflammatory and hypoxic microenvironments. The ‘signal transducer and activator of transcription-3’ (STAT3)-mediated inflammatory response and the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-mediated hypoxia response have been independently shown to promote tumorigenesis through the activation of HIF or STAT3 target genes and to be indicative of a poor prognosis in a variety of tumors. We report here for the first time that STAT3 is involved in the HIF1, but not HIF2-mediated hypoxic transcriptional response. We show that inhibiting STAT3 activity in MDA-MB-231 and RCC4 cells by a STAT3 inhibitor or STAT3 small interfering RNA significantly reduces the levels of HIF1, but not HIF2 target genes in spite of normal levels of hypoxia-inducible transcription factor 1α (HIF1α) and HIF2α protein. Mechanistically, STAT3 activates HIF1 target genes by binding to HIF1 target gene promoters, interacting with HIF1α protein and recruiting coactivators CREB binding protein (CBP) and p300, and RNA polymerase II (Pol II) to form enhanceosome complexes that contain HIF1α, STAT3, CBP, p300 and RNA Pol II on HIF1 target gene promoters. Functionally, the effect of STAT3 knockdown on proliferation, motility and clonogenic survival of tumor cells in vitro is phenocopied by HIF1α knockdown in hypoxic cells, whereas STAT3 knockdown in normoxic cells also reduces cell proliferation, motility and clonogenic survival. This indicates that STAT3 works with HIF1 to activate HIF1 target genes and to drive HIF1-depedent tumorigenesis under hypoxic conditions, but also has HIF-independent activity in normoxic and hypoxic cells. Identifying the role of STAT3 in the hypoxia response provides further data supporting the effectiveness of STAT3 inhibitors in solid tumor treatment owing to their usefulness in inhibiting both the STAT3 and HIF1 pro-tumorigenic signaling pathways in some cancer types.
PMCID: PMC3868635  PMID: 23604114
cotranscriptional activation; HIF; hypoxia; STAT3; transcription
25.  Upstream Stimulatory Factor 2 and Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 2α (HIF2α) Cooperatively Activate HIF2 Target Genes during Hypoxia 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(22):4595-4610.
While the functions of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α)/aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) and HIF2α/ARNT (HIF2) proteins in activating hypoxia-inducible genes are well established, the role of other transcription factors in the hypoxic transcriptional response is less clear. We report here for the first time that the basic helix-loop-helix-leucine-zip transcription factor upstream stimulatory factor 2 (USF2) is required for the hypoxic transcriptional response, specifically, for hypoxic activation of HIF2 target genes. We show that inhibiting USF2 activity greatly reduces hypoxic induction of HIF2 target genes in cell lines that have USF2 activity, while inducing USF2 activity in cells lacking USF2 activity restores hypoxic induction of HIF2 target genes. Mechanistically, USF2 activates HIF2 target genes by binding to HIF2 target gene promoters, interacting with HIF2α protein, and recruiting coactivators CBP and p300 to form enhanceosome complexes that contain HIF2α, USF2, CBP, p300, and RNA polymerase II on HIF2 target gene promoters. Functionally, the effect of USF2 knockdown on proliferation, motility, and clonogenic survival of HIF2-dependent tumor cells in vitro is phenocopied by HIF2α knockdown, indicating that USF2 works with HIF2 to activate HIF2 target genes and to drive HIF2-depedent tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3486188  PMID: 22966206

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