Targeting the hypoxia-sensing pathway in clinical hematology

Stem Cells Transl Med. 2014 Feb;3(2):135-40. doi: 10.5966/sctm.2013-0134. Epub 2013 Dec 26.


Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are oxygen-sensitive transcription factors regulated by oxygen-dependent prolyl hydroxylase domain (PHD) enzymes and are key to cell adaptation to low oxygen. The hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niche in the bone marrow is highly heterogeneous in terms of microvasculature and thus oxygen concentration. The importance of hypoxia and HIFs in the hematopoietic environment is becoming increasingly recognized. Many small compounds that inhibit PHDs have been developed, enabling HIFs to be pharmacologically stabilized in an oxygen-independent manner. The use of PHD inhibitors for therapeutic intervention in hematopoiesis is being increasingly investigated. PHD inhibitors are well established to increase erythropoietin production to correct anemia in hemodialysis patients. Pharmacological stabilization of HIF-1α protein with PHD inhibitors is also emerging as an important regulator of HSC proliferation and self-renewal. Administration of PHD inhibitors increases quiescence and decreases proliferation of HSCs in the bone marrow in vivo, thereby protecting them from high doses of irradiation and accelerating hematological recovery. Recent findings also show that stabilization of HIF-1α increases mobilization of HSCs in response to granulocyte colony-stimulating factor and plerixafor, suggesting that PHD inhibitors could be useful agents to increase mobilization success in patients requiring transplantation. These findings highlight the importance of the hypoxia-sensing pathway and HIFs in clinical hematology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Dicarboxylic / pharmacology
  • Anemia / drug therapy
  • Anemia / metabolism
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator / metabolism*
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Glycine / analogs & derivatives
  • Glycine / pharmacology
  • Hematology
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / drug therapy
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism*
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacology
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*


  • ARNT protein, human
  • Amino Acids, Dicarboxylic
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • FG-4592
  • HIF1A protein, human
  • HIF3A protein, human
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Isoquinolines
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Nuclear Translocator
  • endothelial PAS domain-containing protein 1
  • Glycine
  • oxalylglycine