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J Biol Chem. 2004 Aug 20;279(34):36048-58. Epub 2004 May 28.

Regulation of Drosophila hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) activity in SL2 cells: identification of a hypoxia-induced variant isoform of the HIFalpha homolog gene similar.

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  • 1Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Although hypoxia-inducible factor-alpha (HIFalpha) subunit-specific hydroxylation and proteolytic breakdown explain the binary switch between the presence (hypoxia) and absence (normoxia) of HIFs, little is known of the mechanisms that fine-tune HIF activity under constant, rather than changing, oxygen tensions. Here, we report that the Drosophila HIFalpha homolog, the basic helix-loop-helix/PAS protein Sima (Similar), in hypoxic cultures of SL2 cells is expressed in full-length (fl) and splice variant (sv) isoforms. The following evidence supports the role of flSima as functional HIFalpha and the role of SL2 HIF as a transcriptional activator or suppressor. The pO(2) dependence of Sima abundance matched that of HIF activity. HIF-dependent changes in candidate target gene expression were detected through variously effective stimuli: hypoxia (strong) > iron chelation, e.g. desferrioxamine (moderate) >> transition metals, e.g. cobalt approximately normoxia (ineffective). Sima overexpression augmented hypoxic induction or suppression of different targets. In addition to the full-length exon 1-12 transcript yielding the 1510-amino acid HIFalpha homolog, the sima gene also expressed, specifically under hypoxia, an exon 1-7/12 splice variant, which translated into a 426-amino acid Sima truncation termed svSima. svSima contains basic helix-loop-helix and PAS sequences identical to those of flSima, but, because of deletion of exons 8-11, lacks the oxygen-dependent degradation domain and nuclear localization signals. Overexpressed svSima failed to transactivate reporter genes. However, it attenuated HIF (Sima.Tango)-stimulated reporter expression in a dose-dependent manner. Thus, svSima has the potential to regulate Drosophila HIF function under steady and hypoxic pO(2) by creating a cytosolic sink for the Sima partner protein Tango.

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