Background: Cellular hypoxia is a component of many diseases, but mechanisms of global hypoxic adaptation and resistance are not completely understood. Previously, a population of Drosophila flies was experimentally selected over several generations to survive a chronically hypoxic environment. NMR-based metabolomics, combined with flux-balance simulations of genome-scale metabolic networks, can generate specific hypotheses for global reaction fluxes within the cell. We applied these techniques to compare metabolic activity during acute hypoxia in muscle tissue of adapted versus "naïve" control flies.
Results: Metabolic profiles were gathered for adapted and control flies after exposure to acute hypoxia using 1H NMR spectroscopy. Principal Component Analysis suggested that the adapted flies are tuned to survive a specific oxygen level. Adapted flies better tolerate acute hypoxic stress, and we explored the mechanisms of this tolerance using a flux-balance model of central metabolism. In the model, adapted flies produced more ATP per glucose and created fewer protons than control flies, had lower pyruvate carboxylase flux, and had greater usage of Complex I over Complex II.
Conclusion: We suggest a network-level hypothesis of metabolic regulation in hypoxia-adapted flies, in which lower baseline rates of biosynthesis in adapted flies draws less anaplerotic flux, resulting in lower rates of glycolysis, less acidosis, and more efficient use of substrate during acute hypoxic stress. In addition we suggest new specific hypothesis, which were found to be consistent with existing data.