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Cell Signal. 2012 Jan;24(1):35-43. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2011.08.019. Epub 2011 Sep 8.

Chromatin as an oxygen sensor and active player in the hypoxia response.

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Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression, College of Life Sciences, MSI/WTB/JBC Complex, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom.


Changes in the availability or demand for oxygen induce dramatic changes at the cellular level. Primarily, activation of a family of oxygen labile transcription factors, Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF), initiates a variety of cellular processes required to re-instate oxygen homeostasis. Oxygen is sensed by molecular dioxygenases in cells, such as the prolyl-hydroxylases (PHDs), enzymes which are responsible for the oxygen-dependent regulation of HIF. As HIF is a transcription factor it must bind DNA sequences of its target genes possibly in the context of a complex chromatin structure. How chromatin structure changes in response to hypoxia is currently unknown. However, the identification of a novel class of histone demethylases as true dioxygenases suggests that chromatin can act as an oxygen sensor and plays an active role in the coordination of the cellular response to hypoxia. This review will discuss the current knowledge on how hypoxia engages with different proteins involved in chromatin organisation and dynamics.

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