Ferritin heavy chain controls the HIF-driven hypoxic response by activating the asparaginyl hydroxylase FIH

Peng Jin, Jengmin Kang, Myung Kyu Lee, Jong Wan Park

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Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is a key player in cellular response to hypoxia. The stability and transcriptional activity of this protein are oxygen-dependently regulated by the prolyl hydroxylases PHD1-3 and the asparaginyl hydroxylase FIH. Recently, ferritin heavy chain (FTH1) has been characterized to reinforce the HIF-1 signaling pathway in an indirect way through the inhibition of PHD activity by depleting the free iron pool in the cytoplasm. In the present study, we addressed the role of FTH1 in the FIH control of HIF-1 activity. Unexpectedly, immunoprecipitation analyses revealed that FTH1 directly interacted with FIH. In an in vitro hydroxylation assay, FTH1 was found to facilitate the FIH-mediated Asn803 hydroxylation in HIF-1α. As expected, FTH1 prevented the recruitment of p300 to HIF-1α through the Asn803 hydroxylation. In luciferase reporter analyses, FTH1 was found to repress the transcriptional activity of HIF-1α in HCT116 cells under either normoxic or hypoxic conditions. Consequently, FTH1 downregulated the expression of the HIF-1 target genes, such as VEGF, CA9 and GLUT1. Our results suggest a new role of FTH1 as a co-regulator for the FIH-mediated oxygen sensing pathway. Since HIF-1α is involved in pathogenesis of diverse hypoxia-associated diseases, we propose that FTH1 be a potential target in developing new therapeutic strategies against such diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-481
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 May 2018


  • Factor inhibiting HIF
  • Ferritin heavy chain
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor-1

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