Red blood cells deliver O2 from the lungs to every cell in the human body. Reduced tissue oxygenation triggers increased production of erythropoietin by hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), which is a transcriptional activator composed of an O2-regulated α subunit and a constitutively expressed β subunit. Hydroxylation of HIF-1α or HIF-2α by the asparaginyl hydroxylase FIH-1 blocks coactivator binding and transactivation. Hydroxylation of HIF-1α or HIF-2α by the prolyl hydroxylase PHD2 is required for binding of the von Hippel-Lindau protein (VHL), leading to ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Mutations in the genes encoding VHL, PHD2, and HIF-2α have been identified in patients with familial erythrocytosis. Patients with Chuvash polycythemia, who are homozygous for a missense mutation in the VHL gene, have multisystem pathology attributable to dysregulated oxygen homeostasis. Intense efforts are under way to identify small molecule hydroxylase inhibitors that can be administered chronically to selectively induce erythropoiesis without undesirable side effects.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology