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HIF (hypoxia-inducible factor) is a transcription factor that plays a pivotal role in cellular adaptation to changes in oxygen availability. In the presence of oxygen, HIF is targeted for destruction by an E3 ubiquitin ligase containing the von Hippel–Lindau tumor suppressor protein (pVHL). We found that human pVHL binds to a short HIF-derived peptide when a conserved proline residue at the core of this peptide is hydroxylated. Because proline hydroxylation requires molecular oxygen and Fe2+, this protein modification may play a key role in mammalian oxygen sensing.
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