Research Article Open Access

The Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1α Signaling Pathway and its Relation to Cancer and Immunology

Bruno R.B. Pires1, Andre L. Mencalha2, Gerson M. Ferreira3, Carolina Panis4, Rafael C.M.C. Silva3 and Eliana Abdelhay4
  • 1 Instituto Nacional de Câncer José Alencar Gomes da Silva, Brazil
  • 2 Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 3 Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia para o Controle do Câncer, Brazil
  • 4 Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Paraná, Brazil


Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 (HIF-1) is a transcription factor that is present in all metazoans from early embryonic development throughout adult life. It plays a major roles in the different stress responses that are triggered by low Oxygen (O2) levels and its expression is associated with cell survival. HIF-1 is a heterodimer protein that comprises the subunits HIF-1α and HIF-1β. The HIF-1α subunit is regulated by O2-dependent hydroxylation of proline and asparagine residues, which results in ubiquitination and subsequent proteasome degradation. It may also be regulated independently of O2. This review discusses the regulatory mechanisms and biological significance of HIF-1α with regard to cancer development and immune regulation. HIF-1α stabilization under hypoxic conditions is crucial to the survival of established tumors and cancer stem cells. HIF-1α is included in the hallmarks of cancer that are related to energy metabolism, although there is clear evidence that this transcription factor might participate in other hallmarks, such as angiogenesis, invasion and metastasis, self-sufficiency in proliferation signals and even apoptosis evasion. With regard to immunology, HIF-1α regulates Interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-8 and Heme-Oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and despite some conflicting results, HIF-1α is considered to be an important component of innate immune cell-mediated inflammation. With regard to the adaptive immune response, HIF-1α expression is related to Th17 polarization and Treg inhibition. Thus, the HIF-1α signaling pathway has been designated as a promising target for new drugs in several studies.

American Journal of Immunology
Volume 10 No. 4, 2014, 215-224


Submitted On: 15 January 2014 Published On: 17 January 2015

How to Cite: Pires, B. R., Mencalha, A. L., Ferreira, G. M., Panis, C., Silva, R. C. & Abdelhay, E. (2014). The Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1α Signaling Pathway and its Relation to Cancer and Immunology. American Journal of Immunology, 10(4), 215-224.

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  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1
  • HIF-1α
  • Hypoxia
  • Cancer
  • Immunology