Animal cells need oxygen for survival; without it virtually all animal cells eventually die. Neurons are particularly sensitive to hypoxic injury as evidenced by the devastation in stroke. However, a variety of animals and cells are relatively hypoxia resistant, but the mechanisms whereby they survive hypoxia are poorly understood. Certain animals hibernate in severe hypoxic environments yet exit from hibernation with normal behavior and physiology and no evidence of neuronal death. Strong suppression of protein translation is found in these hibernating animals and is important to their hypoxia resistance. Cancer cells are often relatively hypoxia resistant and have dysregulated translation machinery. The prevailing model to synthesize these observations is that translation lowers energy consumption and thereby increases hypoxic survival. Protein translation accounts for a large fraction of energy consumption, and cells respond to hypoxia by suppressing translation. However, hypoxia-induced translational suppression is not uniform, and some hypoxia-protective proteins are preferentially translated under hypoxic conditions. Thus, the prevailing ?energetics? model is certainly overly simplistic and perhaps entirely incorrect. Our lab has performed screens in the nematode C. elegans for genes controlling hypoxic survival. Many of these genes encode translation factors. Consistent with energetics models, these hypoxia protective mutations/RNAis reduce overall protein synthesis and oxygen consumption. However, the degree of reduction in translation rate and oxygen consumption does not correlate with the level of hypoxia resistance. Further, we showed that knockdown of one translation factor, rars-1, is protective when initiated during recovery from hypoxia when energy preservation should no longer be important. These observations suggest that translational suppression protects from hypoxia by complex mechanisms, not simply lowering energy consumption. We propose using the powerful genetic tools in C. elegans to understand the complex mechanism whereby the translation machinery controls hypoxic survival. We hypothesize that the physiological consequences of reducing mRNA translation vary depending on how this reduction is achieved. We will identify productive pathways that can produce resistance to hypoxia and study the mechanisms whereby they determine hypoxic survival through the following specific aims.
Aim1 : Define pathways whereby translation machinery regulates hypoxic injury. We will identify mutations in translation machinery genes that produce hypoxia resistance and will also identify mutations in genes that block the hypoxia resistance in these translation mutants. These genes will be placed in pathways and the effect of their mutations on translation will be determined.
Aim 2 : Determine the metabolic and physiological consequences of translation machinery modulation associated with hypoxia resistance. Through these aims we will develop a more complete understanding of how the translation machinery controls hypoxic survival and the consequences of the modulation of this machinery.
Cells vary widely in their survival from a hypoxic exposure. Translation factors are known determinants of this survival, yet the mechanisms whereby they control hypoxic injury are poorly understood. The research aims proposed here will better define these mechanisms and will provide a much broader delineation of the pathways whereby changes in the translation machinery control hypoxic survival.