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Gene expression analyses reveal metabolic specifications in acute O2‐sensing chemoreceptor cells

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The Journal of Physiology

Published online on


Acute O2 sensing is a fundamental property of cells in the peripheral chemoreceptors, e.g. glomus cells in the carotid body (CB) and chromaffin cells in the adrenal medulla (AM), and is necessary for adaptation to hypoxia. These cells contain O2‐sensitive ion channels, which mediate membrane depolarization and transmitter release upon exposure to hypoxia. However, the mechanisms underlying the detection of changes in O2 tension by cells are still poorly understood. Recently, we suggested that CB glomus cells have specific metabolic features that favour the accumulation of reduced quinone and the production of mitochondrial NADH and reactive oxygen species during hypoxia. These signals alter membrane ion channel activity. To investigate the metabolic profile characteristic of acute O2‐sensing cells, we used adult mice to compare the transcriptomes of three cell types derived from common sympathoadrenal progenitors, but exhibiting variable responsiveness to acute hypoxia: CB and AM cells which are O2‐sensitive (glomus cells > chromaffin cells) and superior cervical ganglion (SCG) neurons which are practically O2‐insensitive. In the O2‐sensitive cells, we found a characteristic mRNA expression pattern of prolyl hydroxylase 3/hypoxia inducible factor 2α and up‐regulation of several genes, in particular three atypical mitochondrial electron transport subunits and some ion channels. In addition, we found that pyruvate carboxylase, an enzyme fundamental to tricarboxylic acid cycle anaplerosis, is overexpressed in CB glomus cells. We also observed that the inhibition of succinate dehydrogenase impairs CB acute O2 sensing. Our data suggest that responsiveness to acute hypoxia depends on a “signature metabolic profile” in chemoreceptor cells. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved