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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2005 Aug-Oct;16(4-5):487-501.

Control of the hypoxic response through regulation of mRNA translation.

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  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Maastricht Radiation Oncology (Maastro) Lab, GROW Research Institute, USN50/23 University of Maastricht, P.O. Box 616, 6200MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Hypoxia is a common feature of most solid tumors which negatively impacts their treatment response. This is due in part to the biological changes that result from a coordinated cellular response to hypoxia. A large part of this response is driven by a transcriptional program initiated via stabilization of HIF, promoting both angiogenesis and cell survival. However, hypoxia also results in a rapid inhibition of protein synthesis which occurs through the repression of the initiation step of mRNA translation. This inhibition is fully reversible and occurs in all cell lines tested to date. Inhibition of translation is mediated by two distinct mechanisms during hypoxia. The first is through phosphorylation and inhibition of an essential eukaryotic initiation factor, eIF2alpha. Phosphorylation of this factor occurs through activation of the PERK kinase as part of a coordinated ER stress response program known as the UPR. Activation of this program promotes cell survival during hypoxia and facilitates tumor growth. Translation during hypoxia can also be inhibited through the inactivation of a second eukaryotic initiation complex, eIF4F. At least part of this inhibition is mediated through a REDD1 and TSC1/TSC2 dependent inhibition of the mTOR kinase. Inhibition of mRNA translation is hypothesized to affect the cellular tolerance to hypoxia in part by promoting energy homeostasis. However, regulation of translation also results in a specific increase in the synthesis of a subset of hypoxia induced proteins. Consequently, both arms of translational control during hypoxia influence hypoxia induced gene expression and the hypoxic phenotype.

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