• hypoxia-inducible gene;
  • human hepatoma HepG2 cells;
  • divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1);
  • hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1);
  • chemical and physical hypoxia;
  • hypoxia/re-oxygenation


Transferrin and transferrin receptor are two key proteins of iron metabolism that have been identified to be hypoxia-inducible genes. Divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1) is also a key transporter of iron under physiological conditions. In addition, in the 5′ regulatory region of human DMT1 (between −412 and −570), there are two motifs (CCAAAGTGCTGGG) that are similar to hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) binding sites. It was therefore speculated that DMT1 might also be a hypoxia-inducible gene. We investigated the effects of hypoxia and hypoxia/re-oxygenation on the expression of DMT1 and the content of HIF-1alpha in HepG2 cells. As we expected, a very similar tendency in the responses of the expression of HIF-1α, DMT1+IRE (iron response element) and DMT1−IRE proteins to chemical (CoCl2) or physical hypoxia was observed. A highly significant correlation was found between the expression of DMT1 proteins and the contents of HIF-1 in hypoxic cells. After the cells were exposed to hypoxia and subsequent normoxia, no HIF-1α could be detected and a significant decrease in DMT1+IRE expression (P<0.05), but not in DMT1−IRE protein (versus the hypoxia group), was observed. The findings implied that the HIF-1 pathway might have a role in the regulation of DMT1+IRE expression during hypoxia.