JNK2 up-regulates hypoxia-inducible factors and contributes to hypoxia-induced erythropoiesis and pulmonary hypertension

Sala, M. A.; Chen, C.; Zhang, Q.; Do-Umehara, H. C.; Wu, W.; Misharin, A. V.; Waypa, G. B.; Fang, D.; Budinger, G. R. S.; Liu, S.; Chandel, N. S.; Schumacker, P. T.; Sznajder, J. I.; Liu, J.

J Biol Chem. 2017 Nov 10; 293(1):271-284

Abstract

The hypoxic response is a stress response triggered by low oxygen tension. Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) play a prominent role in the pathobiology of hypoxia-associated conditions, including pulmonary hypertension (PH) and polycythemia. The c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK), a stress-activated protein kinase that consists of two ubiquitously expressed isoforms, JNK1 and JNK2, and a tissue-specific isoform, JNK3, has been shown to be activated by hypoxia. However, the physiological role of JNK1 and JNK2 in the hypoxic response remains elusive. Here, using genetic knockout cells and/or mice, we show that JNK2, but not JNK1, up-regulates the expression of HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha and contributes to hypoxia-induced PH and polycythemia. Knockout or silencing of JNK2, but not JNK1, prevented the accumulation of HIF-1alpha in hypoxia-treated cells. Loss of JNK2 resulted in a decrease in HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha mRNA levels under resting conditions and in response to hypoxia. Consequently, hypoxia-treated Jnk2(-/-) mice had reduced erythropoiesis and were less prone to polycythemia because of decreased expression of the HIF target gene erythropoietin (Epo). Jnk2(-/-) mice were also protected from hypoxia-induced PH, as indicated by lower right ventricular systolic pressure, a process that depends on HIF. Taken together, our results suggest that JNK2 is a positive regulator of HIFs and therefore may contribute to HIF-dependent pathologies.

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