Deciphering the emerging role of SUMO conjugation in the hypoxia-signaling cascade

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By driving the primary transcriptional response, the h ypoxia i nducible f actor (HIF) is a master player of the hypoxia-signaling cascade, activation of which is essential to maintain oxygen homeostasis. HIF is formed by the interaction of a constitutive HIF-1 β sub-unit with a HIF- αsubunit tightly regulated through the concerted action of the p rolyl h ydroxylase d omain containing proteins (PHDs) and factor inhibiting HIF. In well-oxygenated cells, HIF- αprolyl-hydroxylation by PHDs is the recognition signal for the binding of the ubiquitin E3 ligase pVHL, allowing protein poly-ubiquitination and degradation by the proteasome. Factor inhibiting HIFmediated asparaginyl hydroxylation prevents interaction with the CBP/p300 coactivator and hence reduces HIF-dependent transcriptional activity. Upon low oxygen availability, HIF- αhydroxylation is blocked, resulting in protein stabilization and HIF complex activation. Post-translational modifications other than hydroxylation appear to be important in the cellular response to hypoxia. S mall ubiquitin-like mo difier (SUMO) is a 10 kDa protein readily conjugated to the lysine (K) residues of numerous cellular substrates in a sequential process termed SUMOylation. Recent data support the idea that a fine balance in SUMOylation/deSUMOylation is required for the adequate activation of the hypoxiasignaling cascade. In the present review, we will concentrate on the mechanisms of SUMOylation and its consequences in the cellular response to hypoxia.

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