Cooperativity of stress-responsive transcription factors in core hypoxia-inducible factor binding regions

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45708. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045708. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


The transcriptional response driven by Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) is central to the adaptation to oxygen restriction. Despite recent characterization of genome-wide HIF DNA binding locations and hypoxia-regulated transcripts in different cell types, the molecular bases of HIF target selection remain unresolved. Herein, we combined multi-level experimental data and computational predictions to identify sequence motifs that may contribute to HIF target selectivity. We obtained a core set of bona fide HIF binding regions by integrating multiple HIF1 DNA binding and hypoxia expression profiling datasets. This core set exhibits evolutionarily conserved binding regions and is enriched in functional responses to hypoxia. Computational prediction of enriched transcription factor binding sites identified sequence motifs corresponding to several stress-responsive transcription factors, such as activator protein 1 (AP1), cAMP response element-binding (CREB), or CCAAT-enhancer binding protein (CEBP). Experimental validations on HIF-regulated promoters suggest a functional role of the identified motifs in modulating HIF-mediated transcription. Accordingly, transcriptional targets of these factors are over-represented in a sorted list of hypoxia-regulated genes. Altogether, our results implicate cooperativity among stress-responsive transcription factors in fine-tuning the HIF transcriptional response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • DNA / chemistry
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA

Grant support

This work was supported by Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, MICINN) [grant number SAF2008-03147 to L. del P.], Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid [grant number S-SAL-0311_2006 to L. del P.] and the 7th Research Framework Programme of the European Union [grant number METOXIA project ref. HEALTH-F2-2009-222741] to L. del P. D.V. was a recipient of PhD funding from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation [FPU programme] and the European Molecular Biology Organization [Short-Term Fellowships]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.