Generation of bidirectional hypoxia/HIF-responsive expression vectors to target gene expression to hypoxic cells

Academic Article


  • Hypoxia initiates an adaptive physiological response in all organisms and plays a role in the pathogenesis of several human diseases. The hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) transcription factor mediates transcriptional responses to hypoxia by binding to a cis-acting hypoxia/HIF-responsive element (HRE) present within target genes. The use of the HIF-1/HRE system of gene regulation can be utilized as a mechanism to target expression of therapeutic genes to hypoxic cells or cells that have a constitutively active HIF-1/HRE pathway due to cell transformation. Given the rapid resistance of tumors to single therapeutic strategies, new vector systems need to be developed that can deliver multimodal therapy. Here we show that HREs function as classical enhancer elements and function bidirectionally to coregulate the expression of two genes. We designed a large series of novel bidirectional hypoxia/HIF-responsive expression vectors using HREs derived from the human vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and erythropoietin (EPO) genes. We measured the ability of these constructs to express the luciferase and LacZ/β-galactosidase (β-gal) reporter genes bidirectionally under normoxic (21% O2) versus hypoxic (1, 3, 5, and 10% O2) conditions by transient transfection in three human glioma cell lines (LN229, U251MG and U138MG). Nine constructs were identified that exhibited moderate to high inducibility at 1% O2 while maintaining tight regulation under normoxic conditions. Moreover, the level of activation was a function of O2 concentration and was exponential at O2 levels below 5%. These vectors will be valuable tools in a variety of gene therapy applications targeting pathological activation of the HIF-1/HRE pathway.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Post DE; Van Meir EG
  • Start Page

  • 1801
  • End Page

  • 1807
  • Volume

  • 8
  • Issue

  • 23