Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Michael J. Knapp

Second Advisor

Michael J. Maroney

Third Advisor

Nathan A. Schnarr

Subject Categories



Oxygen homeostasis is essential to the life of aerobes, which is regulated in humans by Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1α (HIF-1α). Under hypoxic conditions, HIF-1α transactivates over a hundred genes related angiogenesis, erythropoiesis, etc. HIF-1α level and function is regulated by four HIF hydroxylase enzymes: three isoforms of prolyl hydroxylase domain (PHD1, PHD2 and PHD3) and factor inhibiting HIF-1α (FIH). PHD2 is the focus of this research. PHD2 is a non-heme Fe(II) 2-oxoglutarate dependent dioxygenase, which controls HIF-1α levels by hydroxylating two proline residues within the ODD domain of HIF-1α, then the hydroxylated prolines are recognized by pVHL, which targets HIF-1α for proteasomal degradation. Under hypoxic conditions PHD2 cannot hydroxylate HIF-1α and its level rises in cells. The aims of this research include understanding how PHD2 chooses its substrate, how the O2 activation occurs, and how certain transition metals inhibit PHD2.

Our results revealed that electrostatics play a role in substrate selectivity of PHD2 by provoking a change in the opening and closing rate of β2β3 loop for NODD and CODD substrates. Mutational studies of second coordination sphere residues combined with kinetic studies indicated that decarboxylation of 2OG is the slow step in the chemical mechanism. The removal of a hydrogen-bond by the Thr387aAla mutation revealed a rate 15 times faster than WT-PHD2 by making O2 a better nucleophile. Our results indicate that this hydrogen bonding is essential for proper O2 activation.

Previous reports show that certain metals increase HIF-1α levels by inhibiting PHD2. However there are conflicts about how this inhibition occurs, either through metal replacement from the active site or metals binding to a different site causing inhibition. Our competitive and non-competitive kinetic assays showed different inhibition profiles. Under competitive conditions Zn2+, Co2+, Mn2+, and Cu2+ can bind to the enzyme active site and lead to inhibition but under non-competitive conditions Zn2+, Co2+, and Mn2+ partially inhibit PHD2 suggesting that these metals cannot displace the Fe2+ from the active site. XAS experiments with Zn2+ and Fe3+ indicate that Zn2+ binds to the surface of PHD2 in a six-coordinate manner composed of two Cys201, 208, His205, Tyr197 and two water ligands.


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