Serum lipoprotein–derived fatty acids regulate hypoxia-inducible factor

Wei Shao, Jiwon Hwang, Chune Liu, Debaditya Mukhopadhyay, Shan Zhao, Meng Chieh Shen, Ebru S. Selen, Michael J. Wolfgang, Steven A. Farber, Peter J. Espenshade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oxygen regulates hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) transcription factors to control cell metabolism, erythrogenesis, and angiogenesis. Whereas much has been elucidated about how oxygen regulates HIF, whether lipids affect HIF activity is unknown. Here, using cultured cells and two animal models, we demonstrate that lipoprotein-derived fatty acids are an independent regulator of HIF. Decreasing extracellular lipid supply inhibited HIF prolyl hydroxylation, leading to accumulation of the HIFa subunit of these heterodimeric transcription factors comparable with hypoxia with activation of downstream target genes. The addition of fatty acids to culture medium suppressed this signal, which required an intact mitochondrial respiratory chain. Mechanistically, fatty acids and oxygen are distinct signals integrated to control HIF activity. Finally, we observed lipid signaling to HIF and changes in target gene expression in developing zebrafish and adult mice, and this pathway operates in cancer cells from a range of tissues. This study identifies fatty acids as a physiological modulator of HIF, defining a mechanism for lipoprotein regulation that functions in parallel to oxygen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18284-18300
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number52
StatePublished - Dec 25 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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