HDAC4 protein regulates HIF1α protein lysine acetylation and cancer cell response to hypoxia

Hao Geng, Chris T. Harvey, Janet Pittsenbarger, Qiong Liu, Tomasz M. Beer, Changhui Xue, David Z. Qian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α) is an essential part of the HIF-1 transcriptional complex that regulates angiogenesis, cellular metabolism, and cancer development. In von Hippel-Lindau (VHL)-null kidney cancer cell lines, we reported previously that HIF1α proteins can be acetylated and inhibited by histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors or specific siRNA against HDAC4. To investigate the mechanism and biological consequence of the inhibition, we have generated stable HDAC4 knockdown via shRNA in VHL-positive normal and cancer cell lines. We report that HDAC4 regulates HIF1α protein acetylation and stability. Specifically, the HIF1α protein acetylation can be increased by HDAC4 shRNA and decreased by HDAC4 overexpression. HDAC4 shRNA inhibits HIF1α protein stability. In contrast, HDAC1 or HDAC3 shRNA has no such inhibitory effect. Mutations of the first five lysine residues (lysine 10, 11, 12, 19, and 21) to arginine within the HIF1α N terminus reduce protein acetylation but render the mutant HIF1α protein resistant to HDAC4 and HDACi-mediated inhibition. Functionally, in VHL-positive cancer cell lines, stable inhibition of HDAC4 decreases both the HIF-1 transcriptional activity and a subset of HIF-1 hypoxia target gene expression. On the cellular level, HDAC4 inhibition reduces the hypoxia-related increase of glycolysis and resistance to docetaxel chemotherapy. Taken together, the novel biological relationship between HDAC4 and HIF1α presented here suggests a potential role for the deacetylase enzyme in regulating HIF-1 cancer cell response to hypoxia and presents a more specific molecular target of inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38095-38102
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 4 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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