Reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are a byproduct of oxidative metabolism, serve as signaling molecules in a number of physiological settings. However, if their levels are not tightly maintained, excess ROS lead to potentially cytotoxic oxidative stress. Accordingly, several transcriptional regulatory networks have evolved to include components that are highly ROS-responsive. Depending on the context, these regulatory networks can leverage ROS to respond to nutrient conditions, metabolism, or other physiological signals, or to respond to oxidative stress. However, ROS signaling is complex, so regulatory interactions between various ROS-responsive transcription factors are still being mapped out. Here we show that the transcription factor NRF2, a key regulator of the adaptive response to oxidative stress, directly regulates expression of HIF1A, which encodes HIF1α a key transcriptional regulator of the adaptive response to hypoxia. We used an integrative genomics approach to identify HIF1A as a ROS-responsive transcript and we found an NRF2-bound antioxidant response element (ARE) approximately 30 kilobases upstream of HIF1A. This ARE sequence is deeply conserved, and we verified that it is directly bound and activated by NRF2. In addition, we found that HIF1A is upregulated in breast and bladder tumors with high NRF2 activity. Taken together, our results demonstrate that NRF2 targets a functional ARE at the HIF1A locus, and reveal a direct regulatory connection between two important oxygen responsive transcription factors.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge Juan Palacios Moreno for helpful discussions. We are also indebted to the researchers who generated the genome-wide data used in this study. This work was supported by funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences ( R35-GM-119553 to M.S.).