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Respir Physiol. 1999 Apr 1;115(2):239-47.

Oxygen sensing and signaling: impact on the regulation of physiologically important genes.

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Division of Hematology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


A growing number of physiologically relevant genes are regulated in response to changes in intracellular oxygen tension. It is likely that cells from a wide variety of tissues share a common mechanism of oxygen sensing and signal transduction leading to the activation of the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1). Besides hypoxia, transition metals (Co2+, Ni2+ and Mn2+) and iron chelation also promote activation of HIF-1. Induction of HIF-1 by hypoxia is blocked by the heme ligands carbon monoxide and nitric oxide. There is growing, albeit indirect, evidence that the oxygen sensor is a flavoheme protein and that the signal transduction pathway involves changes in the level of intracellular reactive oxygen intermediates. The activation of HIF-1 by hypoxia depends upon signaling-dependent rescue of its alpha-subunit from oxygen-dependent degradation in the proteasome, allowing it to form a heterodimer with HIF-1beta (ARNT), which then translocates to the nucleus and impacts on the transcription of genes whose cis-acting elements contain cognate hypoxia response elements.

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