Iron regulatory protein 2 modulates the switch from aerobic glycolysis to oxidative phosphorylation in mouse embryonic fibroblasts

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 May 14;116(20):9871-9876. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1820051116. Epub 2019 Apr 30.


The importance of the role of iron regulatory proteins (IRPs) in mitochondrial iron homeostasis and function has been raised. To understand how an IRP affects mitochondrial function, we used globally Irp2-depleted mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and found that Irp2 ablation significantly induced the expression of both hypoxia-inducible factor subunits, Hif1α and Hif2α. The increase of Hif1α up-regulated its targeted genes, enhancing glycolysis, and the increase of Hif2α down-regulated the expression of iron-sulfur cluster (Fe-S) biogenesis-related and electron transport chain (ETC)-related genes, weakening mitochondrial respiration. Inhibition of Hif1α by genetic knockdown or a specific inhibitor prevented Hif1α-targeted gene expression, leading to decreased aerobic glycolysis. Inhibition of Hif2α by genetic knockdown or selective disruption of the heterodimerization of Hif2α and Hif1β restored the mitochondrial ETC and coupled oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) by enhancing Fe-S biogenesis and increasing ETC-related gene expression. Our results indicate that Irp2 modulates the metabolic switch from aerobic glycolysis to OXPHOS that is mediated by Hif1α and Hif2α in MEFs.

Keywords: energy metabolism; hypoxia inducible factors; iron regulatory protein 2; mitochondrial function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Glycolysis*
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Iron Regulatory Protein 2 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Organelle Biogenesis
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation*


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Hif1a protein, mouse
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • endothelial PAS domain-containing protein 1
  • Iron Regulatory Protein 2