Somatic mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 or 2 (IDH1/2) contribute to the pathogenesis of cancer via production of the "oncometabolite" D-2-hydroxyglutarate (D-2HG). Elevated D-2HG can block differentiation of malignant cells by functioning as a competitive inhibitor of α-ketoglutarate (α-KG)-dependent enzymes, including Jumonji family histone lysine demethylases. 2HG is a chiral molecule that can exist in either the D-enantiomer or the L-enantiomer. Although cancer-associated IDH1/2 mutants produce D-2HG, biochemical studies have demonstrated that L-2HG also functions as a potent inhibitor of α-KG-dependent enzymes. Here we report that under conditions of oxygen limitation, mammalian cells selectively produce L-2HG via enzymatic reduction of α-KG. Hypoxia-induced L-2HG is not mediated by IDH1 or IDH2, but instead results from promiscuous substrate usage primarily by lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA). During hypoxia, the resulting increase in L-2HG is necessary and sufficient for the induction of increased methylation of histone repressive marks, including histone 3 lysine 9 (H3K9me3).
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