The tumour suppressor protein VHL targets hypoxia-inducible factors for oxygen-dependent proteolysis

Patrick H. Maxwell, Michael S. Wlesener, Gin Wen Chang, Steven C. Clifford, Emma C. Vaux, Matthew E. Cockman, Charles C. Wykoff, Christopher W. Pugh, Eamonn R. Maher, Peter J. Ratcliffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3787 Scopus citations

Abstract

Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) has a key role in cellular responses to hypoxia, including the regulation of genes involved in energy metabolism, angiogenesis and apoptosis. The α subunits of HIF are rapidly degraded by the proteasome under normal conditions, but are stabilized by hypoxia. Cobaltous ions or iron chelators mimic hypoxia, indicating that the stimuli may interact through effects on a ferroprotein oxygen sensor. Here we demonstrate a critical role for the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumour suppressor gene product pVHL in HIF-1 regulation. In VHL-defective cells, HIF α- subunits are constitutively stabilized and HIF-1 is activated. Re-expression of pVHL restored oxygen-dependent instability, pVHL and HIF α-subunits co- immunoprecipitate, and pVHL is present in the hypoxic HIF-1 DNA-binding complex. In cells exposed to iron chelation or cobaltous ions, HIF-1 is dissociated from pVHL. These findings indicate that the interaction between HIF-1 and pVHL is iron dependent, and that it is necessary for the oxygen- dependent degradation of HIF α-subunits. Thus, constitutive HIF-1 activation may underlie the angiogenic phenotype of VHL-associated tumours. The pVHL/HIF-1 interaction provides a new focus for understanding cellular oxygen sensing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-275
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume399
Issue number6733
DOIs
StatePublished - May 20 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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