The HIF PHD erythropoietin axis in the neurovasculature | PHD Biology

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2020 Aug 26;e13547. doi: 10.1111/apha.13547. Online ahead of print.

Inactivation of HIF-prolyl 4-hydroxylases 1, 2 and 3 in NG2-expressing cells induces HIF2-mediated neurovascular expansion independent of erythropoietin

Urrutia AA, Guan N, Mesa-Ciller C, Afzal A, Davidoff O, Haase VH.


Aim: NG2 cells in the brain are comprised of pericytes and NG2 glia and play an important role in the execution of cerebral hypoxia responses, including the induction of erythropoietin (EPO) in pericytes. Oxygen-dependent angiogenic responses are regulated by hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), the activity of which is controlled by prolyl 4-hydroxylase domain (PHD) dioxygenases and the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumour suppressor. However, the role of NG2 cells in HIF-regulated cerebral vascular homeostasis is incompletely understood.

Methods: To examine the HIF/PHD/VHL axis in neurovascular homeostasis, we used a Cre-loxP-based genetic approach in mice and targeted Vhl, Epo, Phd1, Phd2, Phd3 and Hif2a in NG2 cells. Cerebral vasculature was assessed by immunofluorescence, RNA in situ hybridization, gene and protein expression analysis, gel zymography and in situ zymography.

Results: Vhl inactivation led to a significant increase in angiogenic gene and Epo expression. This was associated with EPO-independent expansion of capillary networks in cortex, striatum and hypothalamus, as well as pericyte proliferation. A comparable phenotype resulted from the combined inactivation of Phd2 and Phd3, but not from Phd2 inactivation alone. Concomitant PHD1 function loss led to further expansion of the neurovasculature. Genetic inactivation of Hif2a in Phd1/Phd2/Phd3 triple mutant mice resulted in normal cerebral vasculature.

Conclusion: Our studies establish (a) that HIF2 activation in NG2 cells promotes neurovascular expansion and remodelling independently of EPO, (b) that HIF2 activity in NG2 cells is co-controlled by PHD2 and PHD3 and (c) that PHD1 modulates HIF2 transcriptional responses when PHD2 and PHD3 are inactive.

Keywords: HIF; angiogenesis; brain; erythropoietin; pericytes; prolyl 4-hydroxylase domain.

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see commentary: A triple sense of oxygen promotes neurovascular angiogenesis in NG2-derived cells [Acta Physiologica 2020].