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Low cellular oxygenation (hypoxia) represents a significant threat to the viability of affected tissues. Multicellular organisms have evolved a highly conserved signalling pathway that directs many of the changes in gene expression that underpin physiological oxygen homoeostasis. Oxygen-sensing enzymes in this pathway control the activity of the HIF (hypoxia-inducible factor) transcription factor by the direct incorporation of molecular oxygen into the post-translational hydroxylation of specific residues. This represents the canonical hypoxia signalling pathway which regulates a plethora of genes involved in adaptation to hypoxia. The HIF hydroxylases have been identified in other biological contexts, consistent with the possibility that they have other substrates. Furthermore, several intracellular proteins have been demonstrated, directly or indirectly, to be hydroxylated, although the protein hydroxylases responsible have yet to be identified. This chapter will summarize what is currently known about the canonical HIF hydroxylase signalling pathway and will speculate on the existence of other oxygen-sensing enzymes and the role they may play in signalling hypoxia through other pathways.

Original publication




Journal article


Essays Biochem

Publication Date





1 - 15


Adenosine Triphosphate, Animals, DNA Repair, Dioxygenases, Escherichia coli, Histones, Humans, Hypoxia, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, Models, Biological, Models, Chemical, Oxygen