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Mol Cell Biol. 2003 Dec;23(24):9361-74.

Differential roles of hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha (HIF-1alpha) and HIF-2alpha in hypoxic gene regulation.

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  • 1Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 421 Curie Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Transcriptional responses to hypoxia are primarily mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), a heterodimer of HIF-alpha and the aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator subunits. The HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha subunits are structurally similar in their DNA binding and dimerization domains but differ in their transactivation domains, implying they may have unique target genes. Previous studies using Hif-1alpha(-/-) embryonic stem and mouse embryonic fibroblast cells show that loss of HIF-1alpha eliminates all oxygen-regulated transcriptional responses analyzed, suggesting that HIF-2alpha is dispensable for hypoxic gene regulation. In contrast, HIF-2alpha has been shown to regulate some hypoxia-inducible genes in transient transfection assays and during embryonic development in the lung and other tissues. To address this discrepancy, and to identify specific HIF-2alpha target genes, we used DNA microarray analysis to evaluate hypoxic gene induction in cells expressing HIF-2alpha but not HIF-1alpha. In addition, we engineered HEK293 cells to express stabilized forms of HIF-1alpha or HIF-2alpha via a tetracycline-regulated promoter. In this first comparative study of HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha target genes, we demonstrate that HIF-2alpha does regulate a variety of broadly expressed hypoxia-inducible genes, suggesting that its function is not restricted, as initially thought, to endothelial cell-specific gene expression. Importantly, HIF-1alpha (and not HIF-2alpha) stimulates glycolytic gene expression in both types of cells, clearly showing for the first time that HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha have unique targets.

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