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J Biol Chem. 2004 Apr 9;279(15):14871-8. Epub 2004 Jan 26.

Prolonged hypoxia differentially regulates hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1alpha and HIF-2alpha expression in lung epithelial cells: implication of natural antisense HIF-1alpha.

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Department of Physiology, INSERM U426, Faculté de Médecine Xavier Bichat, Université Paris 7, 75870 Paris, Cedex 18, France.


Transcriptional adaptations to hypoxia are mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1, a heterodimer of HIF-alpha and aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator subunits. The HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha subunits both undergo rapid hypoxia-induced protein stabilization and bind identical target DNA sequences. When coexpressed in similar cell types, discriminating control mechanisms may exist for their regulation, explaining why HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha do not substitute during embryogenesis. We report that, in a human lung epithelial cell line (A549), HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha proteins were similarly induced by acute hypoxia (4 h, 0.5% O(2)) at the translational or posttranslational level. However, HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha were differentially regulated by prolonged hypoxia (12 h, 0.5% O(2)) since HIF-1alpha protein stimulation disappeared because of a reduction in its mRNA stability, whereas HIF-2alpha protein stimulation remained high and stable. Prolonged hypoxia also induced an increase in the quantity of natural antisense HIF-1alpha (aHIF), whose gene promoter contains several putative hypoxia response elements to which (as we confirm here) the HIF-1alpha or HIF-2alpha protein can bind. Finally, transient transfection of A549 cells by dominant-negative HIF-2alpha, also acting as a dominant-negative for HIF-1alpha, prevented both the decrease in the HIF-1alpha protein and the increase in the aHIF transcript. Taken together, these data indicate that, during prolonged hypoxia, HIF-alpha proteins negatively regulate HIF-1alpha expression through an increase in aHIF and destabilization of HIF-1alpha mRNA. This trans-regulation between HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha during hypoxia likely conveys target gene specificity.

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