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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2007 Feb;17(1):71-7. Epub 2007 Jan 8.

Hypoxia-inducible factors: central regulators of the tumor phenotype.

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Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, PA, USA.


Low oxygen levels are a defining characteristic of solid tumors, and responses to hypoxia contribute substantially to the malignant phenotype. Hypoxia-induced gene transcription promotes characteristic tumor behaviors, including angiogenesis, invasion, metastasis, de-differentiation and enhanced glycolytic metabolism. These effects are mediated, at least in part, by targets of the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs). The HIFs function as heterodimers comprising an oxygen-labile alpha-subunit and a stable beta-subunit also referred to as ARNT. HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha stimulate the expression of overlapping as well as unique transcriptional targets, and their induction can have distinct biological effects. New targets and novel mechanisms of dysregulation place the HIFs in an ever more central role in tumor biology and have led to development of pharmacological inhibitors of their activity.

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