Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Need Oxygen? Cells Know How To Spend And Save

Date:
April 8, 2007
Source:
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Summary:
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered how cells fine-tune their oxygen use to make do with whatever amount is available at the moment.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered how cells fine-tune their oxygen use to make do with whatever amount is available at the moment.

Too little oxygen threatens life by compromising mitochondria that power it, so when oxygen is scarce, cells appear to adjust by replacing one protein with an energy-efficient substitute that "is specialized to keep the motor running smoothly even as it begins to run out of gas," says Gregg Semenza, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of pediatrics and director of the vascular biology program in the Institute for Cell Engineering at Hopkins. "This is one way that cells maintain energy production under less than ideal conditions." A report on the work is in the April 6 issue of Cell.

"Cells require a constant supply of oxygen," Semenza says, "so it's vital for them to quickly react to slight changes in oxygen levels." The protein-swap is how they do it.

In the mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses found in every cell, energy is produced by passing electrons through a series of relay stations called cytochromes until they eventually join with oxygen to form water. This final step is directed by the protein cytochrome coxidase, or COX for short. If electrons react with oxygen before reaching COX, they generate "free radicals" that can damage or destroy cells. The mitochondria are designed to produce energy without excess free radical production at normal oxygen levels.

Semenza's team noticed that one particular component of the COX protein complex, COX4, comes in two different forms, COX4-1 and COX4-2. Under normal oxygen conditions, the cells' mitochondria contain mostly COX4-1. The researchers suspected that COX 4-2 might be the active protein under stressful, low-oxygen conditions, which the researchers refer to as hypoxia.

To test the idea, the team compared the growth of human cells in normal oxygen conditions (what's generally present in normal room air) compared to cells grown in hypoxia. In low oxygen, liver, uterus, lung and colon cells all made COX4-2. The researchers then exposed mice to hypoxia for a few weeks and found that they too showed increased levels of COX4-2.

In 1992, Semenza's team had discovered a protein which they called HIF-1 (for hypoxia-inducible factor 1) that cells make in response to hypoxia. HIF-1 turns on genes that help cells survive when oxygen is low, such as during a heart attack or stroke. The researchers set out to figure out if the sensor protein HIF-1 triggers the COX-swapping.

By examining the gene control regions of COX4, they found that the HIF-1 sensor switched on COX4-2 activity when oxygen is low. And they learned that because COX4-1 already is in the mitochondria, the swap for COX4-2 occurs when the sensor turns on yet another gene that produces an enzyme to specifically chew up COX4-1. Engineering human cells to lack this enzyme and subjecting them to low oxygen, the scientists found the cells unable to rid themselves of COX4-1.

"It's remarkable that the one-celled yeast also swap COX subunits in response to hypoxia, but because they lack HIF-1, they accomplish the swap in a completely different way," says Semenza. "This suggests that adapting mitochondria to changes in oxygen levels may be a major challenge for most organisms on Earth."

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Authors on the paper are Ryo Fukuda, Huafeng Zhang, Jung-whan Kim, Larissa Shimoda, Chi V. Dang, and Semenza, all of Johns Hopkins.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Need Oxygen? Cells Know How To Spend And Save." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070405180528.htm>.
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. (2007, April 8). Need Oxygen? Cells Know How To Spend And Save. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070405180528.htm
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Need Oxygen? Cells Know How To Spend And Save." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070405180528.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins