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J Biol Chem. 2002 Aug 16;277(33):29936-44. Epub 2002 Jun 6.

Hsp90 regulates a von Hippel Lindau-independent hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha-degradative pathway.

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  • 1Cell and Cancer Biology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland 20850, USA.


HIF-1 alpha is a normally labile proangiogenic transcription factor that is stabilized and activated in hypoxia. Although the von Hippel Lindau (VHL) gene product, the ubiquitin ligase responsible for regulating HIF-1 alpha protein levels, efficiently targets HIF-1 alpha for rapid proteasome-dependent degradation under normoxia, HIF-1 alpha is resistant to the destabilizing effects of VHL under hypoxia. HIF-1 alpha also associates with the molecular chaperone Hsp90. To examine the role of Hsp90 in HIF-1 alpha function, we used renal carcinoma cell (RCC) lines that lack functional VHL and express stable HIF-1 alpha protein under normoxia. Geldanamycin (GA), an Hsp90 antagonist, promoted efficient ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation of HIF-1 alpha in RCC in both normoxia and hypoxia. Furthermore, HIF-1 alpha point mutations that block VHL association did not protect HIF-1 alpha from GA-induced destabilization. Hsp90 antagonists also inhibited HIF-1 alpha transcriptional activity and dramatically reduced both hypoxia-induced accumulation of VEGF mRNA and hypoxia-dependent angiogenic activity. These findings demonstrate that disruption of Hsp90 function 1) promotes HIF-1 alpha degradation via a novel, oxygen-independent E3 ubiquitin ligase and 2) diminishes HIF-1 alpha transcriptional activity. Existence of an Hsp90-dependent pathway for elimination of HIF-1 alpha predicts that Hsp90 antagonists may be hypoxic cell sensitizers and possess antiangiogenic activity in vivo, thus extending the utility of these drugs as therapeutic anticancer agents.

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