HIF (hypoxia-inducible factor) is a transcription factor that plays a pivotal role in cellular adaptation to changes in oxygen availability. In the presence of oxygen, HIF is targeted for destruction by an E3 ubiquitin ligase containing the von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL). We found that human pVHL binds to a short HIF-derived peptide when a conserved proline residue at the core of this peptide is hydroxylated. Because proline hydroxylation requires molecular oxygen and Fe2+, this protein modification may play a key role in mammalian oxygen sensing.
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