Molecular Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 590–600 | Cite as

Enhanced Hypoxia-Inducible Factor (HIF)-1α Stability Induced by 5-Hydroxymethyl-2-Furfural (5-HMF) Contributes to Protection against Hypoxia

  • Yun-Ling He
  • Ming-Ming Li
  • Li-Ying Wu
  • Tong Zhao
  • Yao Di
  • Xin Huang
  • Xue-Feng Ding
  • Kui-Wu Wu
  • Ming Fan
  • Ling-Ling Zhu
Research Article


We first reported the role of 5-hydroxymethyl-2-furfural (5-HMF) against hypoxia. Here, we studied the mechanism by using oxygen-dependent degradation domain (ODD)-Luc mice, which are a useful model to probe the stabilization of hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α). Compared with three other compounds that have been reported to have a role in stabilizing HIF-1α, 5-HMF caused stronger bioluminescence, which is indicative of HIF-1α stability in the brain and kidney of ODD-Luc mice. We further demonstrated that the HIF-1α protein accumulated in response to 5-HMF in the brains and kidneys of these mice, as well as in PC12 cells. Additionally, 5-HMF promoted the nuclear translocation of HIF-1α and the transcriptional activity of HIF-1, which was evaluated by detecting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) mRNA expression. These results suggest that 5-HMF stabilized HIF-1α and increased its activity. Considering the role of proline hydroxylases (PHDs) in negatively regulating HIF-1α stability, we explored whether 5-HMF interacts with the substrates and cofactors of PHDs, such as 2-oxoglutarate (2-OG), Fe2+ and vitamin C (VC), which affects the activity of PHDs. The result revealed that 5-HMF did not interact with Fe2+ or 2-OG but interacted with VC. This interaction was confirmed by subsequent experiments, in which 5-HMF entered into cells and reduced the VC content. The enhanced stability of HIF-1α by 5-HMF was reversed by VC supplementation, and the improved survival of mice caused by 5-HMF under hypoxia was abrogated by VC supplementation. Thus, we demonstrated for the first time that 5-HMF increases HIF-1α stability by reducing the VC content, which mediates the protection against hypoxia.



This work was supported by the National Basic Research Programs of China (2012CB518200, 2011CB910800) and grants from the Natural Science Foundation of China (81071066, 81000856 and 31271211).

Supplementary material

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Yun-Ling He
    • 1
  • Ming-Ming Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Li-Ying Wu
    • 1
  • Tong Zhao
    • 1
  • Yao Di
    • 1
  • Xin Huang
    • 1
  • Xue-Feng Ding
    • 1
  • Kui-Wu Wu
    • 1
  • Ming Fan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ling-Ling Zhu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive ScienceBeijing Institute of Basic Medical SciencesBeijingP.R. China
  2. 2.Beijing Institute for Brain DisordersBeijingChina

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