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Eur J Pharmacol. 2009 Mar 15;606(1-3):45-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2009.01.026. Epub 2009 Jan 29.

The redox state of glutathione regulates the hypoxic induction of HIF-1.

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Department of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Sciences, Division of Pharmacology, Meikai University School of Dentistry, Sakado, Saitama, Japan.


Hypoxia inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) regulates the transcription of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which plays important roles in angiogenesis. We investigated the redox effect of glutathione (GSH) on the hypoxic induction of HIF-1 in a human oral squamous cell carcinoma (HSC-2) cell line. The maximal induction of HIF-1 in HSC-2 cells was observed 30 h after hypoxia, and VEGF mRNA was expressed after 36 h under hypoxia. GSH ethyl ester (GSHee, a membrane permeable analog of GSH) and N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC, a membrane permeable precursor of GSH) reduced HIF-1 binding activity in a dose-dependent manner. Further, HIF-1 dependent promoter activity was similarly reduced by GSHee and NAC. However, ebselen, which increases glutathione peroxidase activity and oxidizes GSH, negated the effect of GSHee on HIF-1 dependent promoter activity. The inhibitory effect of GSHee and NAC on HIF-1 binding activity was reversed by bis (2-chlorethyl)-nitrosourea, an oxidized glutathione (GSSG) reductase inhibitor which increases the concentration of GSSG. GSSG methyl ester (GSSGme), a membrane permeable analog of GSSG, enhanced HIF-1 dependent promoter activity and exhibited a bell-shaped concentration-dependant activity curve. The increasing effect of GSSGme on HIF-1 induction was also observed under chemically-induced hypoxia obtained using cobalt chloride. These results suggest that changes in the intracellular GSSG/GSH ratio may regulate HIF-1 induction during hypoxia.

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