Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) are α/β heterodimeric transcription factors modulating cellular responses to the low oxygen condition. Among three HIF-α isoforms, HIF-3α is the least studied to date. Here we show that oleoylethanolamide (OEA), a physiological lipid known to regulate food intake and metabolism, binds selectively to HIF-3α. Through crystallographic analysis of HIF-3 α/β heterodimer in both apo and OEA-bound forms, hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS), molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, and biochemical and cell-based assays, we unveil the molecular mechanism of OEA entry and binding to the PAS-B pocket of HIF-3α, and show that it leads to enhanced heterodimer stability and functional modulation of HIF-3. The identification of HIF-3α as a selective lipid sensor is consistent with recent human genetic findings linking HIF-3α with obesity, and demonstrates that endogenous metabolites can directly interact with HIF-α proteins to modulate their activities, potentially as a regulatory mechanism supplementary to the well-known oxygen-dependent HIF-α hydroxylation.
Helmholtz International Lab, State Key Laboratory of Microbial Technology, Shandong University, 266237, Qingdao, China.
Humans, Oxygen, Oleic Acids, Repressor Proteins, Endocannabinoids, Ligands, Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins, Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit