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J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 25;280(8):6561-9. Epub 2004 Dec 15.

Hypoxia-enhanced expression of the proprotein convertase furin is mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor-1: impact on the bioactivation of proproteins.

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  • 1Immunology Division, Pulmonary Division, Faculty of Medicine, UniversitĂ© de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QuĂ©bec.


Hypoxia is a common tumorigenesis enhancer, mostly owing to its impact on gene expression of many angiogenic and invasion-related mediators, some of which are natural substrates for the proprotein convertase furin. Analysis of furin promoters revealed the presence of putative binding sites for hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), a transcription complex that plays a pivotal role in cellular adaptation to hypoxia. In fact, we demonstrate herein that the levels of fur mRNA, encoding furin, are remarkably increased upon hypoxic challenge. Cotransfection of a HIF-1alpha dominant negative form in wild-type (WT) cells or transfection of a furin promoter-reporter gene in HIF-1-deficient cells indicated the requirement of HIF-1 for furin promoter activation by hypoxia. Direct HIF-1 action on the furin promoter was identified as a canonical hypoxia-responsive element site with enhancer capability. The hypoxic/HIF-1 regulation of furin correlated with an increased proteolytic activation of the substrates membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase and transforming growth factor-beta1. Our findings unveil a new facet of the physiological consequences of hypoxia/HIF-1, through enhanced furin-induced proteolytic processing/activation of proproteins known to be involved in tumorigenesis.

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