Decoding Allosteric Control in Hypoxia-Inducible Factors.
Zhuang J., Shang Q., Rastinejad F., Wu D.
The mammalian family of basic helix-loop-helix-PER-ARNT-SIM (bHLH-PAS) transcription factors possess the ability to sense and respond to diverse environmental and physiological cues. These proteins all share a common structural framework, comprising a bHLH domain, two PAS domains, and transcriptional activation or repression domain. To function effectively as transcription factors, members of the family must form dimers, bringing together bHLH segments to create a functional unit that allows for DNA response element binding. The significance of bHLH-PAS family is underscored by their involvement in many major human diseases, offering potential avenues for therapeutic intervention. Notably, the clear identification of ligand-binding cavities within their PAS domains enables the development of targeted small molecules. Two examples are Belzutifan, targeting hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-2α, and Tapinarof, targeting the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), both of which have gained regulatory approval recently. Here, we focus on the HIF subfamily. The crystal structures of all three HIF-α proteins have been elucidated, revealing their bHLH and tandem PAS domains are used to engage their dimerization partner aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT, also called HIF-1β). A broad range of recent findings point to a shared allosteric modulation mechanism among these proteins, whereby small-molecules at the PAS-B domains exert direct influence over the HIF-α transcriptional functions. As our understanding of the architectural and allosteric mechanisms of bHLH-PAS proteins continues to advance, the possibility of discovering new therapeutic drugs becomes increasingly promising.