HIF1alpha is essential for normal intrauterine differentiation of alveolar epithelium and surfactant production in the newborn lung of mice

J Biol Chem. 2008 Nov 28;283(48):33650-7. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M805927200. Epub 2008 Sep 18.


Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is mainly the result of perturbation in surfactant production and is a common complication seen in premature infants. Normal fetal lung development and alveolar cell differentiation is regulated by a network of transcription factors. Functional loss of any of these factors will alter the developmental program and impact surfactant production and normal gas exchange. During development, the fetus is exposed to varying oxygen concentrations and must be able to quickly adapt to these changes in order to survive. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha (HIF1alpha) is the primary transcription factor that is responsible for regulating the cellular response to changes in oxygen tension and is essential for normal development. Its role in lung maturation is not well defined and to address this knowledge gap, a lung-specific HIF1alpha knock-out model has been developed. Loss of HIF1alpha early in lung development leads to pups that die within hours of parturition, exhibiting symptoms similar to RDS. Lungs from these pups display impaired alveolar epithelial differentiation and an almost complete loss of surfactant protein expression. Ultrastructural analysis of lungs from HIF1alpha deletion pups had high levels of glycogen, aberrant septal development, and decreased expression of several factors necessary for proper lung development, including HIF2alpha, beta-catenin, and vascular endothelial growth factor. These results suggest that HIF1alpha is essential for proper lung maturation and alteration in its normal signaling during premature delivery might explain the pathophysiology of neonatal RDS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Differentiation* / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / genetics
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Fetus / pathology
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques / methods
  • Glycogen / genetics
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / embryology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / genetics
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / pathology
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / embryology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / pathology
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Hif1a protein, mouse
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Proteins
  • Glycogen
  • Oxygen