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Mol Cell Biol. 2001 May;21(10):3436-44.

Transcription factor HIF-1 is a necessary mediator of the pasteur effect in mammalian cells.

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  • 1Molecular Biology Section, Division of Biology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093.


The ability to respond to differential levels of oxygen is important to all respiring cells. The response to oxygen deficiency, or hypoxia, takes many forms and ranges from systemic adaptations to those that are cell autonomous. Perhaps the most ancient of the cell-autonomous adaptations to hypoxia is a metabolic one: the Pasteur effect, which includes decreased oxidative phosphorylation and an increase in anaerobic fermentation. Because anaerobic fermentation produces far less ATP than oxidative phosphorylation per molecule of glucose, increased activity of the glycolytic pathway is necessary to maintain free ATP levels in the hypoxic cell. Here, we present genetic and biochemical evidence that, in mammalian cells, this metabolic switch is regulated by the transcription factor HIF-1. As a result, cells lacking HIF-1alpha exhibit decreased growth rates during hypoxia, as well as decreased levels of lactic acid production and decreased acidosis. We show that this decrease in glycolytic capacity results in dramatically lowered free ATP levels in HIF-1alpha-deficient hypoxic cells. Thus, HIF-1 activation is an essential control element of the metabolic state during hypoxia; this requirement has important implications for the regulation of cell growth during development, angiogenesis, and vascular injury.

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