Time-dependent PPARγ Modulation of HIF-1α Signaling in Hypoxic Pulmonary Artery Smooth Muscle Cells

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Pathogenesis of pulmonary hypertension is complex and involves activation of the transcription factor, hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) that shifts cellular metabolism from aerobic respiration to glycolysis, in part, by increasing the expression of its downstream target pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase-1 (PDK-1), thereby promoting a proliferative, apoptosis-resistant phenotype in pulmonary vascular cells. Activation of the nuclear hormone transcription factor, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ), attenuates pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell (PASMC) proliferation. In the current study, we determined whether PPARγ inhibits HIF-1α and PDK-1 expression in human PASMCs.


HPASMCs were exposed to normoxia (21% O2) or hypoxia (1% O2) for 2-72 hours ± treatment with the PPARγ-ligand, rosiglitazone (RSG, 10 μM).


Compared to normoxia, HIF-1α mRNA levels were elevated in HPASMC at 2 hours hypoxia and reduced to baseline levels by 24-72 hours. HIF-1α protein levels increased following 4 and 8 hours of hypoxia and returned to baseline levels by 24 and 72 hours. PDK-1 protein levels increased following 24 hours hypoxia and remained elevated by 72 hours. RSG treatment at the onset of hypoxia attenuated HIF-1α protein and PDK-1 mRNA and protein levels at 4, 8 and 24 hours of hypoxia, respectively. However, RSG treatment during final 24 hours of 72-hour hypoxia, an intervention that inhibits HPASMC proliferation, failed to prevent hypoxia-induced PDK-1 expression.


Hypoxia causes transient activation of HPASMC HIF-1α that is attenuated by RSG treatment initiated at hypoxia onset. These findings provide novel evidence that PPARγ modulates fundamental and acute cellular responses to hypoxia through both HIF-1-dependent and HIF-1-independent mechanisms.

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