Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) is a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor which is expressed when mammalian cells are subjected to hypoxia and which activates transcription of genes encoding erythropoietin, vascular endothelial growth factor, and other proteins that are important for maintaining oxygen homeostasis. Previous studies have provided indirect evidence that HIF-1 also regulates transcription of genes encoding glycolytic enzymes. In this paper we characterize hypoxia response elements in the promoters of the ALDA, ENO1, and Ldha genes. We demonstrate that HIF-1 plays an essential role in activating transcription via these elements and show that although absolutely necessary, the presence of a HIF-1 binding site alone is not sufficient to mediate transcriptional responses to hypoxia. Analysis of hypoxia response elements in the ENO1 and Ldha gene promoters revealed that each contains two functionally-essential HIF-1 sites arranged as direct and inverted repeats, respectively. Our data establish that functional hypoxia-response elements consist of a pair of contiguous transcription factor binding sites at least one of which contains the core sequence 5'-RCGTG-3' and is recognized by HIF-1. These results provide further evidence that the coordinate transcriptional activation of genes encoding glycolytic enzymes which occurs in hypoxic cells is mediated by HIF-1.
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