Researchers Link Master Regulator of Innate Immunity to the Hypoxic Response

Apr 23, 2008

Survival of all animals depends on their ability to withstand microbial infections and adapt to fluctuations in oxygen concentrations. These abilities depend on two ancient, evolutionary gene expression responses called the innate immune response and the hypoxic response.

In a new study published in the advanced online edition of the journal Nature on April 23, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reveal that a single protein is essential to both responses. This understanding may lead to new therapies to boost the body's immune function or to limit inflammatory damage in tissues deprived of oxygen.

The research, led by Michael Karin, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology in UCSD's Laboratory of Gene Regulation and Signal Transduction, shows that transcription factor NF kappa Β (NF-κβ) -- previously known for its role as the master regulator of the innate immune response -- is also a critical regulator of the hypoxic response.

More than ten years ago, the Karin lab identified an enzyme called Iκβ kinase beta (IKKΒ) as the critical activator of NF-Iκβ. In this study, the UCSD researchers interfered with activation of NF-Iκβ by inactivating IKKΒ in different cells and tissues of a laboratory mouse. When they examined how macrophages deficient in IKKΒ responded to bacterial infections or oxygen deprivation, the researchers found that, in addition to the expected defect in activation of NF-Iκβ, the macrophages also failed to accumulate HIF-1α, the master regulator of the hypoxic response. HIF-1α is normally accumulated in cells experiencing low ambient oxygen, or hypoxia; in turn, it activates several genes responsible for generating energy to allow cell survival.

Previous work by UCSD co-contributors Victor Nizet, MD, professor of pediatrics and pharmacy and Randall S. Johnson, Ph.D., professor of biology, showed that bacterial infections -- which deplete infected cells and tissues of critical oxygen -- lead to accumulation of HIF-1α and activation of the hypoxic response.

"The hypoxic response is important in order for macrophages and other immune cells to kill and eliminate bacteria. The surprising result of the new study is the discovery that HIF-1α accumulation is dependent on activation of NF-Iκβ," said Karin.

The NF-Iκβ and HIF-1α pathways have been extensively investigated as targets for new drug therapies. "Our new understanding of the interrelationship of NF-Iκβ and the hypoxic response provides clues toward new treatment strategies to boost the immune function of white blood cells in infected tissues." said Nizet. "Inhibition of the hypoxic response in macrophages might also limit inflammatory damage to brain tissues following stroke or cardiac arrest".

A unique series of mice with specific genetic alterations of HIF-1α or IKKΒ in various cells and tissues have been developed in the Karin and Johnson laboratories to continue these promising lines of investigation.

Source: University of California - San Diego

Explore further: Genetic basis of color diversity in coral reefs discovered

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Standalone wireless info display device an easy fit

2 hours ago

A Latvian team has come up with a good-looking WiFi display device, connecting to the Internet using WiFi, which runs on a high-capacity built-in battery and tracks what's important to you. This is a standalone ...

Technology improves avalanche gear for backcountry skiers

4 hours ago

As outdoor recreation companies increasingly cater to skiers and snowboarders who like to venture beyond the groomed slopes at ski resorts and tackle backcountry terrain, they've put a special emphasis on gear and equipment ...

The elephant poaching business in numbers

4 hours ago

From the pittance paid to local poachers to a multi-billion dollar industry, here are some of the key numbers related to Africa's endangered elephants:

UN moves toward major treaty for ocean biodiversity

4 hours ago

UN member states agreed Saturday to begin negotiations on a treaty to protect marine biodiversity in ocean areas extending beyond territorial waters, in a move heralded by environmental organizations.

Recommended for you

A rare glimpse at the elusive saharan cheetah

5 hours ago

Research by scientists and conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, and other groups published today in PLOS ONE shows that critically endangered Saharan cheeta ...

In a role reversal, RNAs proofread themselves

6 hours ago

Building a protein is a lot like a game of telephone: information is passed along from one messenger to another, creating the potential for errors every step of the way. There are separate, specialized enzymatic ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.