Differential contribution of key metabolic substrates and cellular oxygen in HIF signalling

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Changes in availability and utilisation of O2 and metabolic substrates are common in ischemia and cancer. We examined effects of substrate deprivation on HIF signalling in PC12 cells exposed to different atmospheric O2. Upon 2–4 h moderate hypoxia, HIF-α protein levels were dictated by the availability of glutamine and glucose, essential for deep cell deoxygenation and glycolytic ATP flux. Nuclear accumulation of HIF-1α dramatically decreased upon inhibition of glutaminolysis or glutamine deprivation. Elevation of HIF-2α levels was transcription-independent and associated with the activation of Akt and Erk1/2. Upon 2 h anoxia, HIF-2α levels strongly correlated with cellular ATP, produced exclusively via glycolysis. Without glucose, HIF signalling was suppressed, giving way to other regulators of cell adaptation to energy crisis, e.g. AMPK. Consequently, viability of cells deprived of O2 and glucose decreased upon inhibition of AMPK with dorsomorphin. The capacity of cells to accumulate HIF-2α decreased after 24 h glucose deprivation. This effect, associated with increased AMPKα phosphorylation, was sensitive to dorsomorphin. In chronically hypoxic cells, glutamine played no major role in HIF-2α accumulation, which became mainly glucose-dependent. Overall, the availability of O2 and metabolic substrates intricately regulates HIF signalling by affecting cell oxygenation, ATP levels and pathways involved in production of HIF-α.HighlightsGln and Glc regulate HIF levels in hypoxic cells by maintaining low O2 and high ATP.HIF-α levels under anoxia correlate with cellular ATP and critically depend on Glc.Gln and Glc modulate activity of Akt, Erk and AMPK, regulating HIF production.HIF signalling is differentially inhibited by prolonged Glc and Gln deprivation.Unlike Glc, Gln plays no major role in HIF signalling in chronically hypoxic cells.

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