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Chem Biol Interact. 2013 Apr 25;203(2):401-11. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2013.02.003. Epub 2013 Feb 27.

A cell-penetrating peptide suppresses the hypoxia inducible factor-1 function by binding to the helix-loop-helix domain of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA 95211, USA.


The heterodimeric hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) complex is composed of the hypoxia inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1α) and the aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT). Activation of the HIF-1 function is essential for tumor growth and metastasis. We previously showed that transfection of a plasmid containing an ARNT-interacting peptide (Ainp1) cDNA suppresses the HIF-1 signaling in Hep3B cells. Here we generated TAT fusion of the Ainp1 peptide (6His-TAT-Ainp1) to determine whether and how the Ainp1 peptide suppresses the HIF-1 function. The bacterially expressed 6His-TAT-Ainp1 was purified under denatured condition and then refolded by limited dialysis. The refolded 6His-TAT-Ainp1 interacts with the helix-loop-helix (HLH) domain of ARNT in a similar fashion as the native 6His-Ainp1. 6His-TAT-Ainp1 colocalizes with ARNT in the nucleus of HeLa and Hep3B cells after protein transduction. The transduced protein reaches the maximum intracellular levels within 2 h while remains detectable up to 96 h in HeLa cells. At 2 μM concentration, 6His-TAT-Ainp1 is not cytotoxic in HeLa cells but suppresses the cobalt chloride-activated, hypoxia responsive enhancer-driven luciferase expression in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, it decreases the cobalt chloride-dependent induction of the HIF-1 target genes at both the message (vascular endothelial growth factor and aldolase C) and protein (carbonic anhydrase IX and glucose transporter 1) levels. The protein levels of HIF-1α and ARNT are not altered in the presence of 6His-TAT-Ainp1. In summary, we provided evidence to support that the Ainp1 peptide directly suppresses the HIF-1 function by interacting with the ARNT HLH domain, and in turn interfering with the heterodimerization of HIF-1α and ARNT.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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