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Nature. 1998 Mar 26;392(6674):405-8.

Stabilization of wild-type p53 by hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha.

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Department of Cell and Cancer Biology, Medicine Branch, NCI, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Although hypoxia (lack of oxygen in body tissues) is perhaps the most physiological inducer of the wild-type p53 gene, the mechanism of this induction is unknown. Cells may detect low oxygen levels through a haem-containing sensor protein. The hypoxic state can be mimicked by using cobalt chloride and the iron chelator desferrioxamine: like hypoxia, cobalt chloride and desferrioxamine activate hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha (HIF-1alpha), which stimulates the transcription of several genes that are associated with hypoxia. Here we show that these treatments induce accumulation of wild-type p53 through HIF-1alpha-dependent stabilization of p53 protein. Induction of p53 does not occur in either a mutant hepatoma cell line that is unable to induce HIF-1alpha or embryonic stem cells derived from mice lacking HIF-1beta. HIF-1alpha is found in p53 immunoprecipitates from MCF7 cells that express wild-type p53 and are either hypoxic or have been exposed to desferrioxamine. Similarly, anti-haemagglutinin immunoprecipitates from lysates of normoxic PC3M cells that had been co-transfected with haemagglutinin-tagged HIF-1alpha and wild-type p53 also contain p53. Transfection of normoxic MCF7 cells with HIF-1alpha stimulates a co-transfected p53-dependent reporter plasmid and increases the amount of endogenous p53. Our results suggest that hypoxic induction of transcriptionally active wild-type p53 is achieved as a result of the stabilization of p53 by its association with HIF-1alpha.

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