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Interleukin-1β And Tumor Necrosis Factor- Stimulate DNA Binding Of Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1

Thomas Hellwig-Bürgel, Karen Rutkowski, Eric Metzen, Joachim Fandrey, Wolfgang Jelkmann

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The rate of transcription of several genes encoding proteins involved in O2 and energy homeostasis is controlled by hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), a heterodimeric DNA binding complex composed of  and β subunits. HIF-1 is considered the primarytrans-acting factor for the erythropoietin (EPO) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) genes. Since EPO gene expression is inhibited by the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor- (TNF-), while no such effect has been reported with respect to the VEGF gene, we investigated the effects of IL-1β and TNF- on the activation of the HIF-1 DNA-binding complex and the amount of HIF-1 protein in human hepatoma cells in culture. Under normoxic conditions, both cytokines caused a moderate activation of HIF-1 DNA binding. In hypoxia, cytokines strongly increased HIF-1 activity compared with the effect of hypoxia alone. Only IL-1β increased HIF-1 protein levels. In transient transfection experiments, HIF-1–driven reporter gene expression was augmented by cytokines only under hypoxic conditions. In contrast to their effect on EPO synthesis, neither IL-1β nor TNF- decreased VEGF production. The mRNA levels of HIF-1 and VEGF were unaffected. Thus, cytokine-induced inhibition of EPO production is not mediated by impairment of HIF-1 function. We propose that HIF-1 may be involved in modulating gene expression during inflammation.