Mammalian cells increase transcription of genes for adaptation to hypoxia through the stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α) protein. How cells transduce hypoxic signals to stabilize the HIF-1α protein remains unresolved. We demonstrate that cells deficient in the complex III subunit cytochrome b, which are respiratory incompetent, increase ROS levels and stabilize the HIF-1α protein during hypoxia. RNA interference of the complex III subunit Rieske iron sulfur protein in the cytochrome b-null cells and treatment of wild-type cells with stigmatellin abolished reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation at the Qo site of complex III. These interventions maintained hydroxylation of HIF-1α protein and prevented stabilization of HIF-1α protein during hypoxia. Antioxidants maintained hydroxylation of HIF-1α protein and prevented stabilization of HIF-1α protein during hypoxia. Exogenous hydrogen peroxide under normoxia prevented hydroxylation of HIF-1α protein and stabilized HIF-1α protein. These results provide genetic and pharmacologic evidence that the Qo site of complex III is required for the transduction of hypoxic signal by releasing ROS to stabilize the HIF-1α protein.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology