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Hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIFs) are fundamental to cellular adaptation to low oxygen levels, but it is unclear how they interact with chromatin and activate their target genes. Here, we use genome-wide mutagenesis to identify genes involved in HIF transcriptional activity, and define a requirement for the histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) methyltransferase SET1B. SET1B loss leads to a selective reduction in transcriptional activation of HIF target genes, resulting in impaired cell growth, angiogenesis and tumor establishment in SET1B-deficient xenografts. Mechanistically, we show that SET1B accumulates on chromatin in hypoxia, and is recruited to HIF target genes by the HIF complex. The selective induction of H3K4 trimethylation at HIF target loci is both HIF- and SET1B-dependent and, when impaired, correlates with decreased promoter acetylation and gene expression. Together, these findings show SET1B as a determinant of site-specific histone methylation and provide insight into how HIF target genes are differentially regulated.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature genetics

Publication Date





1022 - 1035


Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease (CITIID), Jeffrey Cheah Biomedical Centre, Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


Animals, Mice, Knockout, Humans, Mice, Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase, Models, Animal, Gene Expression Regulation, Protein Binding, Acetylation, Methylation, Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors, Promoter Regions, Genetic, Hypoxia