20-HETE can act as a nonhypoxic regulator of HIF-1α in human microvascular endothelial cells

Austin M. Guo, Gloria Scicli, Ju Sheng, John C. Falck, Paul A. Edwards, A. Guillermo Scicli

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36 Scopus citations


20-HETE increases the expression of VEGF in human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (ECs). Since VEGF is regulated by hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1, we studied whether 20-HETE also upregulates HIF-1α using the stable 20-HETE analog 20-hydroxyeicosa-5(Z),14(Z)dienoic acid (WIT003; 1-10 μM) and found that it induced a marked increase in HIF-1α protein levels. The increases in VEGF after the addition of WIT003 preceded the changes in HIF-1α, and the increases in HIF-1α were prevented by a VEGF neutralizing antibody. This suggests that 20-HETE first causes increases in VEGF, which then, in turn, cause the upregulation of HIF-1α. Stimulation with exogenously added VEGF also led to an upregulation of HIF-1α. Incubation with the MEK1/ERK1/2 inhibitor U-0126 (10 μM) completely abolished the increases in VEGF and thus HIF-1α, suggesting the involvement of ERK1/2 activation. The addition of WIT003 resulted in a rapid and sustained increase in superoxide formation. When WIT003 was added in the presence of the nitric oxide (NO) synthase (NOS) inhibitor N-nitro-L-arginine, no changes in superoxide, VEGF, or HIF-1α were observed. This suggests that NOS is responsible for the early changes in superoxide induced by WIT003. Furthermore, WIT003 induced the expression of the NADPH oxidase subunit p47phox in ECs before the increases in HIF-1α. Incubation with polyethylene glycol-superoxide dismutase (400 U/ml), apocynin (100 μM), diphenylene iodonium (10 μM), or p47phox downregulation with small interfering (si)RNA all inhibited the increases in HIF-1α expression. This indicates that the early changes in superoxide lead to VEGF increases and thereby NADPH oxidase-dependent superoxide production, which is required for HIF-1α upregulation. We also found that the higher HIF-1α expression induced by WIT003 was accompanied by higher expression of erythropoietin receptor and angiopoietin-2 proteins. These increases were caused by HIF-1α because their levels were markedly decreased by siRNA downregulation of HIF-1α. 20-HETE may be a novel nonhypoxic regulator of HIF-1α and HIF-1α-regulated genes in ECs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H602-H613
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2009


  • 20-hydroxyeicosatrienoic acid
  • Cytochrome P-4504A
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor
  • Nitric oxide synthase
  • Superoxide
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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