Increased expression of the regulatory subunit of HIFs (HIF-1α or HIF-2α) is associated with metabolic adaptation, angiogenesis, and tumor progression. Understanding how HIFs are regulated is of intense interest. Intriguingly, the molecular mechanisms that link mitochondrial function with the HIF-regulated response to hypoxia remain to be unraveled. Here we describe what we believe to be novel functions of the human gene CHCHD4 in this context. We found that CHCHD4 encodes 2 alternatively spliced, differentially expressed isoforms (CHCHD4.1 and CHCHD4.2). CHCHD4.1 is identical to MIA40, the homolog of yeast Mia40, a key component of the mitochondrial disulfide relay system that regulates electron transfer to cytochrome c. Further analysis revealed that CHCHD4 proteins contain an evolutionarily conserved coiled-coil-helix-coiled-coil-helix (CHCH) domain important for mitochondrial localization. Modulation of CHCHD4 protein expression in tumor cells regulated cellular oxygen consumption rate and metabolism. Targeting CHCHD4 expression blocked HIF-1α induction and function in hypoxia and resulted in inhibition of tumor growth and angiogenesis in vivo. Overexpression of CHCHD4 proteins in tumor cells enhanced HIF-1α protein stabilization in hypoxic conditions, an effect insensitive to antioxidant treatment. In human cancers, increased CHCHD4 expression was found to correlate with the hypoxia gene expression signature, increasing tumor grade, and reduced patient survival. Thus, our study identifies a mitochondrial mechanism that is critical for regulating the hypoxic response in tumors.
Jun Yang, Oliver Staples, Luke W. Thomas, Thomas Briston, Mathew Robson, Evon Poon, Maria L. Simões, Ethaar El-Emir, Francesca M. Buffa, Afshan Ahmed, Nicholas P. Annear, Deepa Shukla, Barbara R. Pedley, Patrick H. Maxwell, Adrian L. Harris, Margaret Ashcroft