Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Need oxygen? Cells know how to spend and save

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.

... more about:
»COX4-1 »COX4-2 »Cox »HIF-1 »Hypoxia »mitochondria

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."

Audrey Huang | EurekAlert!
Further information:

Further reports about: COX4-1 COX4-2 Cox HIF-1 Hypoxia mitochondria

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>