The ability of cells to tolerate hypoxia is critical to their survival, but varies greatly among different cell types. Despite alterations in many cellular responses during hypoxic exposure, pulmonary arterial endothelial cells (PAEC) retain their viability and cellular integrity. Under similar experimental conditions, other cell types, exemplified by renal tubular epithelial cells, are extremely hypoxia sensitive and are rapidly and irreversibly damaged. To investigate potential mechanisms by which PAEC maintain cellular and functional integrity under these conditions, we compared the turnover of adenine and guanine nucleotides in hypoxia tolerant PAEC and in hypoxia-sensitive renal tubular endothelial cells under various hypoxic conditions. Under several different hypoxic conditions, hypoxia-tolerant PAEC maintained or actually increased ATP levels and the percentage of these nucleotides found in the high energy phosphates, ATP and GTP. In contrast, in hypoxia-sensitive renal tubular endothelial cells, the same high energy phosphates were rapidly depleted. Yet, in both cell types, there were minor alterations in the uptake of the precusor nucleotide and its incorporation into the appropriate purine nucleotide phosphates and marked decreases in ATPase and GTPase activity. This maintenance of high energy phosphates in hypoxic PAEC suggests that there exists tight regulation of ATP and GTP turnover in these cells and that preservation of these nucleotides may contribute to the tolerance of PAEC to acute and chronic hypoxia.
A V Tretyakov, H W Farber