Oxygen-dependent ubiquitination and degradation of hypoxia-inducible factor requires nuclear-cytoplasmic trafficking of the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein

Isabelle Groulx, Stephen Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

132 Scopus citations

Abstract

It is becoming increasingly evident that the degradation of nuclear proteins requires nuclear-cytoplasmic trafficking of both the substrate proteins, as well as the E3 ubiquitin-ligases. Here, we show that nuclearcytoplasmic trafficking of the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (VHL) is required for oxygen-dependent ubiquitination and degradation of the alpha subunits of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF-α). VHL engages in a constitutive transcription-sensitive nuclear-cytoplasmic shuttle unaffected by oxygen tension or levels of nuclear substrate HIF-α. Ubiquitinated forms of HIF-α, as well as VHL/ubiquitinated HIF-α complexes, are found solely in the nuclear compartment of normoxic or reoxygenated VHL-competent cells. HIF-α localizes exclusively in the nucleus of hypoxic cells but is exported to the cytoplasm upon reoxygenation. Oxygen-dependent nuclear ubiquitination and nuclear export of HIF-α can be prevented by treatment with an HIF-specific prolyl hydroxylase inhibitor. Treatment with inhibitors of RNA polymerase II activity, which interfere with the ability of VHL to engage in nuclear export, also prevents cytoplasmic accumulation of HIF-α in reoxygenated cells. This caused a marked increase in the HIF-α half-life without affecting its nuclear ubiquitination. We present a model by which VHL-mediated ubiquitination of HIF-α and its subsequent degradation are dependent upon dynamic nuclear-cytoplasmic trafficking of both the E3 ubiquitin-ligase and the nuclear substrate protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5319-5336
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Volume22
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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