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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 31, 2015

The importin α/β-specific inhibitor Ivermectin affects HIF-dependent hypoxia response pathways

  • Friederike K. Kosyna , Marie Nagel , Larissa Kluxen , Kim Kraushaar and Reinhard Depping EMAIL logo
From the journal Biological Chemistry


Hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIFs) regulate hundreds of genes involved in cellular adaptation to reduced oxygen availability. HIFs consist of an O2-labile α-subunit (primarily HIF-1α and HIF-2α) and a constitutive HIF-1β subunit. In normoxia the HIF-α subunit is hydroxylated by members of a family of prolyl-4-hydroxylase domain (PHD) proteins, PHD1-3, resulting in recognition by von Hippel-Lindau protein, ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. In contrast, reduced oxygen availability inhibits PHD activity resulting in HIF-1α stabilisation and nuclear accumulation. Nuclear import of HIF-1α mainly depends on classical nuclear localisation signals (NLS) and involves importin α/β heterodimers. Recently, a specific inhibitor of nuclear import has been identified that inhibits importin α/β-dependent import with no effects on a range of other nuclear transport pathways involving members of the importin protein family. In this study we evaluated the physiological activity of this importin α/β-inhibitor (Ivermectin) in the hypoxia response pathway. Treatment with Ivermectin decreases binding activity of HIF-1α to the importin α/β-heterodimer. Moreover, HIF-1α nuclear localisation, nuclear HIF-1α protein levels, HIF-target gene expression, as well as HIF-transcriptional activity are reduced upon Ivermectin treatment. For the first time, we demonstrate the effect of specific importin α/β-inhibition on the hypoxic response on the molecular level.

Corresponding author: Reinhard Depping, Institute of Physiology, Center for Structural and Cell Biology in Medicine, University of Lübeck, Ratzeburger Allee 160, D-23562 Lübeck, Germany, e-mail:


We thank W. Jelkmann for ongoing broad support and discussing the data. The authors are grateful to S. G. Schindler, B. Rudzewski, T. Svensson, P. Rouina and Swantje Häger for excellent technical support. The authors are grateful for the financial support by the University of Lübeck (gefördert mit den Mitteln der Sektion Medizin an der Universität zu Lübeck J19-2015). The authors declare no competing financial interests.


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Supplemental Material

The online version of this article (DOI: 10.1515/hsz-2015-0171) offers supplementary material, available to authorized users.

Received: 2015-4-30
Accepted: 2015-7-23
Published Online: 2015-7-31
Published in Print: 2015-12-1

©2015 by De Gruyter

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