Hypoxia-induced transcriptional regulation through chromatin modifications and NC2 function

Amber Johnson, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


In response to tumor hypoxia, specific genes that promote angiogenesis, proliferation, and survival are induced. Globally, I find that hypoxia induces a mixed pattern of histone modifications that are typically associated with either transcriptional activation or repression. Furthermore, I find that selective activation of hypoxia-inducible genes occurs simultaneously with widespread repression of transcription. I analyzed histone modifications at the core promoters of hypoxia-repressed and -activated genes and find that distinct patterns of histone modifications correlate with transcriptional activity. Additionally, I discovered that trimethylated H3-K4, a modification generally associated with transcriptional activation, is induced at both hypoxia-activated and repressed genes, suggesting a novel pattern of histone modifications induced during hypoxia. In order to determine the mechanism of hypoxia-induced widespread repression of transcription, I focused my studies on negative cofactor 2 (NC2). Previously, we found that hypoxia-induced repression of the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) gene occurs during preinitiation complex (PIC) assembly, and I find that NC2, an inhibitor of PIC assembly, is induced during hypoxia. Moreover, I find that the beta subunit of NC2 is essential for hypoxia-mediated repression of AFP, as well as the widespread repression of transcription observed during hypoxia. Previous data in Drosophila and S. cerevisiae indicate that NC2 functions as either an activator or a repressor of transcription. The mechanism of NC2-mediated activation remains unclear; although, Drosophila NC2 function correlates with specific core promoter elements. I tested if NC2 activates transcription in mammalian cells using this core promoter-specific model as a guide. Utilizing site-specific mutagenesis, I find that NC2 function in mammalian cells is not dependent upon specific core promoter elements; however, I do find that mammalian NC2 does function in a gene-specific manner as either an activator or repressor of transcription during hypoxia. Furthermore, I find that binding of the alpha subunit of NC2 specifically correlates with NC2-mediated transcriptional activation. NC2α and NC2β are both required for NC2-mediated transcriptional activation; whereas, NC2β alone is required for hypoxia-induced transcriptional repression. Together, these data indicate that hypoxia mediates changes in gene expression through both chromatin modifications and NC2 function.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Amber, "Hypoxia-induced transcriptional regulation through chromatin modifications and NC2 function" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3256550.