Hypoxia-induced angiogenesis: good and evil

Genes Cancer. 2011 Dec;2(12):1117-33. doi: 10.1177/1947601911423654.


The vascular network delivers oxygen (O(2)) and nutrients to all cells within the body. It is therefore not surprising that O(2) availability serves as a primary regulator of this complex organ. Most transcriptional responses to low O(2) are mediated by hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs), highly conserved transcription factors that control the expression of numerous angiogenic, metabolic, and cell cycle genes. Accordingly, the HIF pathway is currently viewed as a master regulator of angiogenesis. HIF modulation could provide therapeutic benefit for a wide array of pathologies, including cancer, ischemic heart disease, peripheral artery disease, wound healing, and neovascular eye diseases. Hypoxia promotes vessel growth by upregulating multiple pro-angiogenic pathways that mediate key aspects of endothelial, stromal, and vascular support cell biology. Interestingly, recent studies show that hypoxia influences additional aspects of angiogenesis, including vessel patterning, maturation, and function. Through extensive research, the integral role of hypoxia and HIF signaling in human disease is becoming increasingly clear. Consequently, a thorough understanding of how hypoxia regulates angiogenesis through an ever-expanding number of pathways in multiple cell types will be essential for the identification of new therapeutic targets and modalities.

Keywords: HIFs; angiogenesis; anti-angiogenic therapies; cancer; hypoxia; vascular diseases.