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J Biol Chem. 2003 Dec 5;278(49):48690-5. Epub 2003 Sep 23.

The von Hippel Lindau/hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway regulates the transcription of the HIF-proline hydroxylase genes in response to low oxygen.

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Arzobispo Morcillo s/n, 28029 Madrid, Spain.


Most of the genes induced by hypoxia are regulated by a family of transcription factors termed hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF). Under normoxic conditions, HIFalpha proteins are very unstable due to hydroxylation by a recently described family of proline hydroxylases termed EGL-Nine homologs (EGLN). Upon hydroxylation, HIFalpha is recognized by the product of the tumor suppressor vhl and targeted for proteosomal degradation. Since EGLNs require oxygen to catalyze HIF hydroxylation, this reaction does not efficiently occur under low oxygen tension. Thus, under hypoxia, HIFalpha escapes from degradation and transcribes target genes. The mRNA levels of two of the three EGLNs described to date are induced by hypoxia, suggesting that they might be novel HIF target genes; however, no proof for this hypothesis has been reported. Here we show that the induction of EGLN1 and -3 by hypoxia is found in a wide range of cell types. The basal levels of EGLN3 are always well below those of EGLN1 and EGLN2, and its induction by hypoxia is larger than that found for EGLN1. The inhibitor of transcription, actinomycin D, prevents the increase of EGLN3 mRNA induced by hypoxia, indicating that it is due to enhanced gene expression. Interestingly, EGLN1 and EGLN3 mRNAs were also triggered by EGLN inhibitors, suggesting the involvement of HIFalpha in the control of its transcription. In agreement with this possibility, pVHL-deficient cell lines, which present high HIF activity under normoxia, also showed dramatically increased normoxic levels of EGLN3. Moreover, the overexpression of an oxygen-insensitive mutant form of HIFalpha resulted in increased normoxic levels of EGLN3 mRNA. Finally, hypoxic induction of EGLNs was not observed in cells lacking functional HIFalpha.

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