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Mol Cell Biol. 2006 Jun;26(12):4628-41.

Cell-type-specific regulation of degradation of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha: role of subcellular compartmentalization.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Karolinska Institutet, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


The hypoxia-inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF-1 alpha) is a transcription factor that mediates adaptive cellular responses to decreased oxygen availability (hypoxia). At normoxia, HIF-1 alpha is targeted by the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL) for degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. In the present study we have observed distinct cell-type-specific differences in the ability of various tested pVHL-interacting subfragments to stabilize HIF-1 alpha and unmask its function at normoxia. These properties correlated with differences in subcellular compartmentalization and degradation of HIF-1 alpha. We observed that the absence or presence of nuclear localization or export signals differently affected the ability of a minimal HIF-1 alpha peptide spanning residues 559 to 573 of mouse HIF-1 alpha to stabilize endogenous HIFalpha and induce HIF-driven reporter gene activity in two different cell types (primary mouse endothelial and HepG2 hepatoma cells). Degradation of HIF-1 alpha occurred mainly in the cytoplasm of HepG2 cells, whereas it occurs with equal efficiency in nuclear and cytoplasmic compartments of primary endothelial cells. Consistent with these observations, green fluorescent protein-HIF-1 alpha is differently distributed during hypoxia and reoxygenation in hepatoma and endothelial cells. Consequently, we propose that differential compartmentalization of degradation of HIF-1 alpha and the subcellular distribution of HIF-1 alpha may account for cell-type-specific differences in stabilizing HIF-1 alpha protein levels under hypoxic conditions.

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