Branched chain α-ketoacids aerobically activate HIF1α signaling in vascular cells.

bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology

Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α) is a master regulator of numerous biological processes under low oxygen tensions. Yet, the mechanisms and biological consequences of aerobic HIF1α activation by intrinsic factors, particularly in primary cells remain elusive. Here, we show that HIF1α signaling is activated in several human primary vascular cells under ambient oxygen tensions, and in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) of normal human lung tissue, which contributed to a relative resistance to further enhancement of glycolytic activity in hypoxia. Mechanistically, aerobic HIFα activation is mediated by paracrine secretion of three branched chain α-ketoacids (BCKAs), which suppress prolyl hydroxylase domain-containing protein 2 (PHD2) activity direct inhibition and lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA)-mediated generation of L-2-hydroxyglutarate (L2HG). Metabolic dysfunction induced by BCKAs was observed in the lungs of rats with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs) from idiopathic PAH patients. BCKA supplementation stimulated glycolytic activity and promoted a phenotypic switch to the synthetic phenotype in PASMCs of normal and PAH subjects. In summary, we identify BCKAs as novel signaling metabolites that activate HIF1α signaling in normoxia and that the BCKA-HIF1α pathway modulates VSMC function and may be relevant to pulmonary vascular pathobiology.

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bioRxiv : the preprint server for biology
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