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Hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) is regulated by dual pathways involving oxygen-dependent prolyl and asparaginyl hydroxylation of its α-subunits. Prolyl hydroxylation at two sites within a central degradation domain promotes association of HIF-α with the von Hippel-Lindau ubiquitin E3 ligase and destruction by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathways. Asparaginyl hydroxylation blocks the recruitment of p300/CBP co-activators to a C-terminal activation domain in HIF-α. These hydroxylations are catalyzed by members of the Fe(II) and 2-oxoglutarate (2-OG) oxygenase family. Activity of the enzymes is suppressed by hypoxia, increasing both the abundance and activity of the HIF transcriptional complex. We have used hydroxy residue-specific antibodies to compare and contrast the regulation of each site of prolyl hydroxylation (Pro(402), Pro(564)) with that of asparaginyl hydroxylation (Asn(803)) in human HIF-1α. Our findings reveal striking differences in the sensitivity of these hydroxylations to hypoxia and to different inhibitor types of 2-OG oxygenases. Hydroxylation at the three sites in endogenous human HIF-1α proteins was suppressed by hypoxia in the order Pro(402) > Pro(564) > Asn(803). In contrast to some predictions from in vitro studies, prolyl hydroxylation was substantially more sensitive than asparaginyl hydroxylation to inhibition by iron chelators and transition metal ions; studies of a range of different small molecule 2-OG analogues demonstrated the feasibility of selectively inhibiting either prolyl or asparaginyl hydroxylation within cells.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





13041 - 13051


Animals, Cell Hypoxia, Drosophila melanogaster, Enzyme Inhibitors, Hep G2 Cells, Humans, Hydroxylation, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit, K562 Cells, Male, Oxygenases, Protein Structure, Tertiary, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases, p300-CBP Transcription Factors