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Exp Cell Res. 2005 May 15;306(1):274-84. Epub 2005 Mar 20.

Nitric oxide reverses desferrioxamine- and hypoxia-evoked HIF-1alpha accumulation--implications for prolyl hydroxylase activity and iron.

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Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Biochemistry I, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt, Germany.


Hypoxia inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) senses and coordinates cellular responses towards hypoxia. HIF-1 activity is primarily determined by stability regulation of its alpha subunit that is degraded by the 26S proteasome under normoxia due to hydroxylation by prolyl hydroxylases (PHDs) but is stabilized under hypoxia. Besides hypoxia, nitric oxide (NO) stabilizes HIF-1alpha and promotes hypoxia-responsive target gene expression under normoxia. However, in hypoxia, NO attenuates HIF-1alpha stabilization and gene activation. It was our intention to explain the contrasting behavior of NO under hypoxia. We used the iron chelator desferrioxamine (DFX) or hypoxia to accumulate HIF-1alpha in HEK293 cells. Once the protein accumulated, we supplied NO donors and followed HIF-1alpha disappearance. NO-evoked HIF-1alpha destabilization was reversed by proteasomal inhibition or by blocking PHD activity. By using the von Hippel Lindau (pVHL)-HIF-1alpha capture assay, we went on to demonstrate binding of pVHL to HIF-1alpha under DFX/NO but not DFX alone. Showing increased intracellular free iron under conditions of hypoxia/NO compared to hypoxia alone, we assume that increased free iron contributes to regain PHD activity. Variables that allow efficient PHD activation such as oxygen availability, iron content, or cofactor accessibility at that end allow NO to modulate HIF-1alpha accumulation.

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