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Blood. 2005 Jun 15;105(12):4613-9. Epub 2005 Mar 1.

Copper-dependent activation of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1: implications for ceruloplasmin regulation.

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  • 1Carl-Ludwig-Institute of Physiology, University of Leipzig, Germany.


Cellular oxygen partial pressure is sensed by a family of prolyl-4-hydroxylase domain (PHD) enzymes that modify hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)alpha subunits. Upon hydroxylation under normoxic conditions, HIFalpha is bound by the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein and targeted for proteasomal destruction. Since PHD activity is dependent on oxygen and ferrous iron, HIF-1 mediates not only oxygen- but also iron-regulated transcriptional gene expression. Here we show that copper (CuCl(2)) stabilizes nuclear HIF-1alpha under normoxic conditions, resulting in hypoxia-response element (HRE)-dependent reporter gene expression. In in vitro hydroxylation assays CuCl(2) inhibited prolyl-4-hydroxylation independently of the iron concentration. Ceruloplasmin, the main copper transport protein in the plasma and a known HIF-1 target in vitro, was also induced in vivo in the liver of hypoxic mice. Both hypoxia and CuCl(2) increased ceruloplasmin (as well as vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF] and glucose transporter 1 [Glut-1]) mRNA levels in hepatoma cells, which was due to transcriptional induction of the ceruloplasmin gene (CP) promoter. In conclusion, our data suggest that PHD/HIF/HRE-dependent gene regulation can serve as a sensory system not only for oxygen and iron but also for copper metabolism, regulating the oxygen-, iron- and copper-binding transport proteins hemoglobin, transferrin, and ceruloplasmin, respectively.

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