The function of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) in chronic kidney disease is disputed. Here we report that interactions of HIF-1α with transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling may promote its fibrotic effects. Knockout of HIF-1α is protective against glomerulosclerosis and glomerular type-I collagen accumulation in a mouse podocyte ablation model. Transcriptional analysis of cultured renal cells showed that α2(I) collagen expression is directly regulated by HIF-1α binding to a functional hypoxia-responsive element in its promoter at –335 relative to the transcription start site. Activation of COL1A2 transcription by HIF-1α occurred in the absence of hypoxia and is strongly enhanced by TGF-β signaling. TGF-β, in addition to increasing HIF-1α levels, increased both HIF-1α binding to the COL1A2 promoter and HIF-1α N-terminal transactivation domain activity. These effects of TGF-β on HIF-1α were inhibited in Smad3-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts, suggesting a requirement for Smad3. Phosphorylated Smad3 also associated with the –335 hypoxia-responsive element of the COL1A2 promoter independent of a Smad DNA binding sequence. Smad3 binding to the –335 hypoxia-responsive element required HIF-1α both in vitro and in kidney lysate from the disease model, suggesting formation of an HIF-1α–Smad3 transcriptional complex. Thus, HIF-1α-Smad3 has a novel interaction in glomerulosclerosis.
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