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Cell Res. 2006 Jun;16(6):548-58.

Hypoxia upregulates hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-3alpha expression in lung epithelial cells: characterization and comparison with HIF-1alpha.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Renji Hospital, Shanghai Second Medical University, 1630 Dongfang Road, Shanghai 200127, China.


The role of the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) subunits 1alpha and 2alpha in response to hypoxia is well established in lung epithelial cells, whereas little is known about HIF-3alpha with respect to transcriptional and translational regulation by hypoxia. HIF-3alpha and HIF-1alpha are two similar but distinct basic helix-loop-helix-PAS proteins, which have been postulated to activate hypoxia responsive genes in response to hypoxia. Here, we used quantitative real time RT-PCR and immunoblotting to determine the activation of HIF-3alpha vs. HIF-1alpha by hypoxia. HIF-3alpha was strongly induced by hypoxia (1% O2) both at the level of protein and mRNA due to an increase in protein stability and transcriptional activation, whereas HIF-1alpha protein and mRNA levels enhanced transiently and then decreased because of a reduction in its mRNA stability in A549 cells, as measured on mRNA and protein levels. Interestingly, HIF-3alpha and HIF-1alpha exhibited strikingly similar responses to a variety of activating or inhibitory pharmacological agents. These results demonstrate that HIF-3alpha is expressed abundantly in lung epithelial cells, and that the transcriptional induction of HIF-3alpha plays an important role in the response to hypoxia in vitro. Our findings suggest that HIF-3alpha, as a member of the HIF system, is complementary rather than redundant to HIF-1alpha induction in protection against hypoxic damage in alveolar epithelial cells.

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