Responding to Hypoxia: Lessons From a Model Cell Line

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Science's STKE  20 Aug 2002:
Vol. 2002, Issue 146, pp. re11
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2002.146.re11

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Mammalian cells require a constant supply of oxygen to maintain adequate energy production, which is essential for maintaining normal function and for ensuring cell survival. Sustained hypoxia can result in cell death. It is, therefore, not surprising that sophisticated mechanisms have evolved that allow cells to adapt to hypoxia. "Oxygen-sensing" is a special phenotype that functions to detect changes in oxygen tension and to transduce this signal into organ system functions that enhance the delivery of oxygen to tissue in various organisms. Oxygen-sensing cells can be segregated into two distinct cell types: those that functionally depolarize (excitable) and those that do not functionally depolarize (nonexcitable) in response to reduced oxygen. Theoretically, excitable cells have all the same signaling capabilities as the nonexcitable cells, but the nonexcitable cells cannot have all the signaling capabilities as excitable cells. A number of signaling pathways have been identified that regulate gene expression during hypoxia. These include the Ca2+-calmodulin pathway, the 3′-5′ adenosine monophosphate (cAMP)-protein kinase A (PKA) pathway, the p42 and p44 mitogen-activated protein kinase [(MAPK); also known as the extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK) for ERK1 and ERK2] pathway, the stress-activated protein kinase (SAPK; also known as p38 kinase) pathway, and the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt pathway. In this review, we describe hypoxia-induced signaling in the model O2-sensing rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cell line, the current level of understanding of the major signaling events that are activated by reduced O2, and how these signaling events lead to altered gene expression in both excitable and nonexcitable oxygen-sensing cells.

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