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Hypoxia-inducible expression has been demonstrated for many groups of mammalian genes, and studies of transcriptional control have revealed the existence of hypoxia-responsive elements (HREs) in the cis-acting sequences of several of these genes. These sequences generally contain one or more binding sites for a heterodimeric DNA binding complex termed hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1). To analyze this response further, Chinese hamster ovary cells were stably transfected with plasmids bearing HREs linked to genes encoding immunoselectable cell surface markers, and clones that showed reduced or absent hypoxia-inducible marker expression were selected from a mutagenized culture of cells. Analysis of these cells revealed several clones with transacting defects in HRE activation, and in one the defect was identified as a failure to express the alpha-subunit of HIF-1. Comparison of hypoxia-inducible gene expression in wild type, HIF-1alpha-defective, and HIF-1alpha-complemented cells revealed two types of response. For some genes (e.g. glucose transporter-1), hypoxia-inducible expression was critically dependent on HIF-1alpha, whereas for other genes (e.g. heme oxygenase-1) hypoxia-inducible expression appeared largely independent of the expression of HIF-1alpha. These experiments show the utility of mutagenesis and selection of mutant cells in the analysis of mammalian transcriptional responses to hypoxia and demonstrate the operation of HIF-1alpha-dependent and HIF-1alpha-independent pathways of hypoxia-inducible gene expression in Chinese hamster ovary cells.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





8360 - 8368


Animals, CHO Cells, Cell Hypoxia, Cricetinae, DNA-Binding Proteins, Gene Expression Regulation, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit, Mutation, Nuclear Proteins, Transcription Factors