Hypoxia-inducible factor as a bridge between healthy barrier function, wound healing, and fibrosis

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2022 Sep 1;323(3):C866-C878. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00227.2022. Epub 2022 Aug 1.


The healthy mammalian intestine is lined by a single layer of epithelial cells. These cells provide a selectively permeable barrier to luminal contents and normally do so in an efficient and effective manner. Barrier function in the healthy mucosa is provided via several mechanisms including epithelial junctional complexes, mucus production, as well as mucosal-derived antimicrobial proteins. As tissue metabolism is central to the maintenance of homeostasis in the mucosa, intestinal [Formula: see text] levels are uniquely low due to counter-current blood flow and the presence of the microbiota, resulting in the stabilization of the transcription factor hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF). Ongoing studies have revealed that HIF molds normal intestinal metabolism and is central to the coordination of barrier regulation during both homeostasis and active disease. During acute inflammation, HIF is central to controlling the rapid restitution of the epithelium consistent with normal wound healing responses. In contrast, HIF may also contribute to the fibrostenotic response associated with chronic, nonresolving inflammation. As such, HIF may function as a double-edged sword in the overall course of the inflammatory response. Here, we review recent literature on the contribution of HIF to mucosal barrier function, wound healing, and fibrosis.

Keywords: barrier; fibrosis; hypoxia-inducible factor; inflammation; inflammatory bowel disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa* / metabolism
  • Mammals
  • Wound Healing*


  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit