Original Paper

Neurochemical Research

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 931-946

First online:

Hypoxia Inducible Factor Prolyl 4-Hydroxylase Enzymes: Center Stage in the Battle Against Hypoxia, Metabolic Compromise and Oxidative Stress

  • Ambreena SiddiqAffiliated withBurke Medical Research InstituteDepartments of Neurology and Neuroscience, Weil Medical College of Cornell University Email author 
  • , Leila R AminovaAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • , Rajiv R RatanAffiliated withBurke Medical Research InstituteDepartments of Neurology and Neuroscience, Weil Medical College of Cornell University

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Studies of adaptive mechanisms to hypoxia led to the discovery of the transcription factor called hypoxia inducible factor (HIF). HIF is a ubiquitously expressed, heterodimeric transcription factor that regulates a cassette of genes that can provide compensation for hypoxia, metabolic compromise, and oxidative stress including erythropoietin, vascular endothelial growth factor, or glycolytic enzymes. Diseases associated with oxygen deprivation and consequent metabolic compromise such as stroke or Alzheimer’s disease may result from inadequate engagement of adaptive signaling pathways that culminate in HIF activation. The discovery that HIF stability and activation are governed by a family of dioxygenases called HIF prolyl 4 hydroxylases (PHDs) identified a new target to augment the transcriptional activity of HIF and thus the adaptive machinery that governs neuroprotection. PHDs lose activity when cells are deprived of oxygen, iron or 2-oxoglutarate. Inhibition of PHD activity triggers the cellular homeostatic response to oxygen and glucose deprivation by stabilizing HIF and other proteins. Herein, we discuss the possible role of PHDs in regulation of both HIF-dependent and -independent cell survival pathways in the nervous system with particular attention to the co-substrate requirements for these enzymes. The emergence of neuroprotective therapies that modulate genes capable of combating metabolic compromise is an affirmation of elegant studies done by John Blass and colleagues over the past five decades implicating altered metabolism in neurodegeneration.


Hypoxia inducible factor Prolyl 4-hydroxylase Transcriptional regulation Neuroprotection Iron chelation