Hypoxia-inducible factor 1a is a Tsc1-regulated survival factor in newborn neurons in tuberous sclerosis complex

Hum Mol Genet. 2013 May 1;22(9):1725-34. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddt018. Epub 2013 Jan 24.


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in TSC1 or TSC2 resulting in hyperactivity of the mammalian target of rapamycin and disabling brain lesions. These lesions contain misplaced neurons enriched in hypoxia-inducible factor 1a (HIF1a). However, the relationship between TSC1/2 and HIF1a and the function of HIF1a in TSC neurons remain unexplored. Here, we examine the degree of HIF1a activity and its function in newborn Tsc1(null) neurons in a mouse model of TSC. Using single cell electroporation in the neurogenic subventricular zone (SVZ) of neonatal mice, we deleted Tsc1 and generated olfactory lesions containing misplaced Tsc1(null) neurons as previously reported. These newborn neurons displayed elevated HIF1a-mediated transcriptional activity when compared with Tsc1 heterozygote neurons and a marked resistance to cell death induced by a HIF1a antagonist. Electroporation of Hif1a targeting short hairpin RNA (shRNA) or dominant negative HIF1a constructs resulted in 80-90% loss of Tsc1(null) newborn neurons although sparing SVZ stem cells. Consistent with this later finding, induction of Hif1a shRNA expression during synaptic integration thus bypassing neuron production also resulted in newborn neuron death. Collectively, these results suggest that HIF1a acts as a molecular determinant of newborn neuron survival and that its TSC1-dependent up-regulation gave Tsc1(null) neurons a survival advantage, despite their misplacement in a novel microenvironment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / drug therapy
  • Tuberous Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 1 Protein
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Hif1a protein, mouse
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Tsc1 protein, mouse
  • Tsc2 protein, mouse
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 1 Protein
  • Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 Protein
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins