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Mol Genet Metab. 2002 Jan;75(1):65-9.

Lactase gene transcription is activated in response to hypoxia in intestinal epithelial cells.

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Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.


Lactase-phlorizin hydrolase, a brush-border membrane disaccharidase, is a marker of intestinal epithelial cell differentiation and digestive function. The intestine is susceptible to conditions of hypoxia resulting from vascular perfusion deficits. We hypothesized that lactase gene induction may provide a mechanism to efficiently increase nutrient energy substrates during gut hypoxia. These studies sought to characterize expression of the lactase gene in response to hypoxia and to characterize a role for hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-1) in mediating the hypoxic response. Microarray analysis and confirmatory RT-PCR identified a 4-fold induction of lactase mRNA abundance in intestinal epithelial Caco-2 cells exposed to hypoxia. Lactase promoter activity was similarly induced by hypoxia in cells stably transfected with a 2.0-kb 5' flanking region of the rat lactase gene linked to a reporter gene. Transient cotransfection with HIF-1alpha and beta stimulated lactase promoter activity 2.4- and 3.5-fold under conditions of normoxia and hypoxia, respectively. We conclude that HIF-1 can activate the lactase promoter in intestinal epithelial cells exposed to hypoxia. Induction of lactase transcription may represent an adaptive response to gut hypoxia.

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