Hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) locate to HIF-binding sites (HBSs) within the hypoxia-response elements (HREs) of oxygen-regulated genes. Whereas HIF-1alpha is expressed ubiquitously, HIF-2alpha is found primarily in the endothelium, similar to endothelin-1 (ET-1) and fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 (Flt-1), the expression of which is controlled by HREs. We identified an unique sequence alteration in both ET-1 and Flt-1 HBSs not found in other HIF-1 target genes, implying that these HBSs might cause binding of HIF-2 rather than HIF-1. However, electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed HIF-1 and HIF-2 DNA complex formation with the unique ET-1 HBS to be about equal. Both DNA-binding and hypoxic activation of reporter genes using the ET-1 HBS was decreased compared with transferrin and erythropoietin HBSs. The Flt-1 HBS was non-functional when assayed in isolation, suggesting that additional factors are required for hypoxic up-regulation via the reported Flt-1 HRE. Interestingly, HIF-1 activity could be restored fully by point-mutating the ET-1 (but not the Flt-1) HBS, suggesting that the wild-type ET-1 HBS attenuated the full hypoxic response known from other oxygen-regulated genes. Such a mechanism might serve to limit the expression of this potent vasoconstrictor in hypoxia.