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J Biol Chem. 1995 May 12;270(19):11463-71.

Induction of interleukin 6 (IL-6) by hypoxia in vascular cells. Central role of the binding site for nuclear factor-IL-6.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032, USA.


The pathologic picture in ischemic tissue injury shares features with the inflammatory response, including production of proinflammatory cytokines. Hypoxia-mediated induction of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cytokine with anti-inflammatory properties, could set in motion mechanisms limiting inflammation in ischemia. Exposure of cultured endothelial cells (ECs) to H (pO2 approximately 12-16 torr) increased transcription of IL-6, elevated levels of IL-6 mRNA, and induced elaboration of IL-6 antigen in a time-dependent manner. Exposure of mice to hypoxia increased IL-6 transcripts in the lung, and immunostaining revealed a striking increase in IL-6 antigen in pulmonary vasculature. Transfection of ECs with deletion chimeric IL-6 promoter-chloramphenicol acetyl-transferase (CAT) constructs showed hypoxia-mediated 9-11-fold induction with -1200/+13, -596/+13, and -225/+13 but no induction with -111/+13. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSAs) using -225/-111 as the labeled probe demonstrated enhanced binding activity in nuclear extracts of hypoxic ECs and lung; the appearance of the gel shift band was prevented by excess unlabeled probe (-225/-111), and hypoxia-mediated enhancement of the band was blocked by a probe corresponding to the nuclear factor (NF)-IL-6 site (-158/-145). The hypoxia-enhanced band on EMSA displayed a supershift with antibody to CCAAT-enhancer-binding protein beta (C/EBP-beta), but antibody to C/EBP-alpha or -delta was without effect. Transfection of ECs with a construct comprising thymidine kinase promoter, -225/-111 in either the 5' to 3' to 5' orientation, and the reporter CAT showed this region to be an enhancer (approximately 8-fold) under hypoxia. EMSA with the NF-IL-6 probe revealed a prominent induction of binding activity with nuclear extracts from hypoxic ECs and whole lung. Constructs with -158/-145 and the CAT reporter gene showed induction when transfected into hypoxic ECs, whereas a similar construct with the NF-IL-6 motif mutationally inactivated failed to display hypoxia-induced expression. Furthermore, the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) gene, whose product contributes to ischemic pathology and contains a putative regulatory NF-IL-6 site, demonstrated enhanced binding activity for its NF-IL-6 motif and induction of TNF mRNA based on analysis of hypoxic lung. These data indicate that hypoxia induces expression of IL-6, most likely a result of hypoxic activation at the NF-IL-6 site, and suggest that other genes with regulatory NF-IL-6 sites may also be induced by a similar mechanism.

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