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The role of HIF-1 in up-regulating MICA expression on human renal proximal tubular epithelial cells during hypoxia/reoxygenation

Lei Luo12, Jun Lu1, Liang Wei1, Dan Long1, Jia Y Guo1, Juan Shan1, Fu S Li1, Ping Y Lu4, Ping Y Li13 and Li Feng1*

Author affiliations

1 Key Laboratory of Transplant Engineering and Immunology of Health Ministry of China

2 Institute of Clinical Medicine, West China Hospital, Sichuan University (No.37 Guo Xue Xiang), Chengdu, 610041, China

3 Chinese Evidence-Based Medicine Center, West China Hospital, Sichuan University (No.37 Guo Xue Xiang), Chengdu, 610041, China

4 Transplantation Institute, West China Hospital, Sichuan University (No.37 Guo Xue Xiang), Chengdu, 610041, China

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2010, 11:91  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-11-91

Published: 23 November 2010



Human major histocompatibility complex class I-related chain A (MICA) plays a dual role in adaptive and innate immune responses. Increasing evidence demonstrates that MICA is closely correlated with acute and chronic kidney allograft rejection. Therefore, understanding the activation mechanisms of MICA is important in kidney transplantation. We previously demonstrated that ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI) could up-regulate MICA expression on mouse kidney allografts. Since hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is the master regulator of cellular adaptive responses to hypoxia during IRI, here we investigate whether HIF-1 could up-regulate MICA expression and its influence on NK cell cytotoxicity.


We find that HIF-1alpha plays an important role in up-regulating MICA expression, inducing IFNgamma secretion and NK cell cytotoxicity during hypoxia/reoxygenation. First, we generated a HIF-1alphaDELTAODD-expressing adenovirus to stably and functionally express HIF-1alpha in human renal proximal tubular epithelial (HK-2) cells under normoxia conditions. HIF-1alpha over-expression in HK-2 cells induces MICA expression and enhances NK cell cytotoxic activity towards cells that express HIF-1alpha. Second, we used a hypoxia/reoxygenation cell model to simulate IRI in vitro and found that the suppression of HIF-1alpha by RNAi induces down-regulation of MICA expression and inhibits NK cytotoxicity. In antibody blocking experiments, an anti-MICA mAb was able to down-regulate NK cell cytotoxic activity towards HK-2 cells that over-expressed HIF-1alpha. Moreover, when NK cells were co-cultured with the HK-2 cells expressing MICA, which was up-regulated by over-expression of HIF-1alpha, there was a significant increase in the secretion of IFNgamma. In the presence of the blocking MICA mAb, IFNgamma secretion was significantly decreased.


These results demonstrate that hypoxia/reoxygenation-promoted MICA expression on HK-2 cells is through a HIF-1 pathway. The increased IFNgamma secretion and enhanced NK cell cytotoxicity was mainly due to the surface expression of MICA induced by over-expression of HIF-1alpha. This study enhances our understanding of MICA activation mechanisms during kidney transplantation and provides insights into how IRI can influence transplant outcome. Moreover, these findings might be also important for developing strategies to reduce the effect of MICA in kidney transplant outcomes in the future.