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J Neurosci. 2005 Apr 20;25(16):4099-107.

Brain-specific knock-out of hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha reduces rather than increases hypoxic-ischemic damage.

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  • 1Laboratory of Genetics, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Neurosci. 2005 May 11;25(19):1 p following 4888.


Hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha (HIF-1alpha) plays an essential role in cellular and systemic O(2) homeostasis by regulating the expression of genes important in glycolysis, erythropoiesis, angiogenesis, and catecholamine metabolism. It is also believed to be a key component of the cellular response to hypoxia and ischemia under pathophysiological conditions, such as stroke. To clarify the function of HIF-1alpha in the brain, we exposed adult mice with late-stage brain deletion of HIF-1alpha to hypoxic injuries. Contrary to expectations, the brains from the HIF-1alpha-deficient mice were protected from hypoxia-induced cell death. These surprising findings suggest that decreasing the level of HIF-1alpha can be neuroprotective. Gene chip expression analysis revealed that, contrary to expectations, the majority of hypoxia-dependent gene-expression changes were unaltered, whereas a specific downregulation of apoptotic genes was observed in the HIF-1alpha-deficient mice. Although the role of HIF-1alpha has been extensively characterized in vitro, in cancer models, and in chronic preconditioning paradigms, this is the first study to evaluate the role of HIF-1alpha in vivo in the brain in response to acute hypoxia/ischemia. Our data suggest, that in acute hypoxia, the neuroprotection found in the HIF-1alpha-deficient mice is mechanistically consistent with a predominant role of HIF-1alpha as proapoptotic and loss of function leads to neuroprotection. Furthermore, our data suggest that functional redundancy develops after excluding HIF-1alpha, leading to the preservation of gene expression regulating the majority of other previously characterized HIF-dependent genes.

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