Hypoxia-inducible factors not only regulate but also are myeloid-cell treatment targets


  • L. Kling
  • A. Schreiber
  • K.U. Eckardt
  • R. Kettritz


  • Journal of Leukocyte Biology


  • J Leukoc Biol 110: 61-75


  • Hypoxia describes limited oxygen availability at the cellular level. Myeloid cells are exposed to hypoxia at various bodily sites and even contribute to hypoxia by consuming large amounts of oxygen during respiratory burst. Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are ubiquitously expressed heterodimeric transcription factors, composed of an oxygen-dependent α and a constitutive β subunit. The stability of HIF-1α and HIF-2α is regulated by oxygen-sensing prolyl-hydroxylases (PHD). HIF-1α and HIF-2α modify the innate immune response and are context dependent. We provide a historic perspective of HIF discovery, discuss the molecular components of the HIF pathway, and how HIF-dependent mechanisms modify myeloid cell functions. HIFs enable myeloid-cell adaptation to hypoxia by up-regulating anaerobic glycolysis. In addition to effects on metabolism, HIFs control chemotaxis, phagocytosis, degranulation, oxidative burst, and apoptosis. HIF-1α enables efficient infection defense by myeloid cells. HIF-2α delays inflammation resolution and decreases antitumor effects by promoting tumor-associated myeloid-cell hibernation. PHDs not only control HIF degradation, but also regulate the crosstalk between innate and adaptive immune cells thereby suppressing autoimmunity. HIF-modifying pharmacologic compounds are entering clinical practice. Current indications include renal anemia and certain cancers. Beneficial and adverse effects on myeloid cells should be considered and could possibly lead to drug repurposing for inflammatory disorders.