HIF and oxygen sensing; as important to life as the air we breathe?

Ann Med. 2003;35(3):183-90. doi: 10.1080/0785389031000458233.


Molecular oxygen (O2)is a basic requirement for cellular growth and viability and many aspects of anatomy and physiology are dedicated to achieving reliable distribution. Recent work has identified a specific sensing and response system, centred around a transcription complex called Hypoxia-inducible Factor 1 (HIF-1), which forms the focus of this review. The HIF-system operates in all cell types and modulates a very broad range of cellular pathways, consistent with the broad importance of oxygen. It is implicated in a rapidly expanding range of developmental, physiological and pathological settings, and is potentially relevant to almost all areas of clinical medicine. Excitingly, the pathway can be activated with low molecular weight compounds which should offer therapeutic benefit, especially in diseases where oxygen supply is compromised.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Mice
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / physiology
  • Models, Animal
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology*
  • Nuclear Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Oxygen / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors*
  • Transcriptional Activation / physiology


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • HIF1A protein, human
  • Hif1a protein, mouse
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases
  • Oxygen