The study objective was to investigate the role of hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) in the transcriptional activation of MUC5AC in human bronchial epithelial (HBE) 16 cells under hypoxia conditions and the effect of hypoxia on expression and secretion of MUC5AC. Cells were incubated in hypoxia medium. Serial deletions or mutations of the MUC5AC promoter were cloned in the reporter pGL3-basic plasmid (Promega Biotech Co, Ltd, Beijing, China). These reporter plasmids were cotransfected with HIF-1α small interfering RNA. Hypoxia markedly increased the level of MUC5AC secretion and the transcriptional activity of MUC5AC promoters. Western blot analysis showed that HIF-1α and MUC5AC proteins were strongly increased after HBE16 cells were exposed to hypoxic conditions. Treatment of HBE16 cells with HIF-1α inhibitor (YC-1) or HIF-1α small interfering RNA significantly inhibited the expression of HIF-1α and MUC5AC, and the secretion of MUC5AC. Depletion of the promoter sequence did not reduce the MUC5AC promoter activity to hypoxia. Luciferase assay indicated that HRE in the MUC5AC promoter was in the region from −120 to +54. Promoter sequence analysis showed that 1 HRE site at −65 plays an important role in hypoxia activation of the MUC5AC. The inactivation of the HRE site using site-directed mutagenesis led to the complete loss of induction by hypoxia, which further confirmed the key role of the HRE site. MUC5AC expression and secretion are upregulated in response to hypoxia. The HRE site at −65 in the MUC5AC promoter and the HIF-1α are the major regulators for the cellular response against hypoxia in human bronchial epithelial cells.