Survival in acute and severe low o environment: use of a genetic model system

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Oct;1177:39-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05045.x.


Hypoxia whether present during physiologic states (e.g., embryogenesis) or during pathologic states (e.g., obstructive sleep apnea and sickle cell anemia), challenges the vertebrate or invertebrate organism. Clearly, hypoxia can lead to sublethal cell injury or death and consequently organ or systemic injury and failure, depending on severity. We discovered that the adult Drosophila melanogaster is tolerant to a low O(2) environment, withstanding approximately 3-4 hours of total O(2) deprivation or anoxia without showing any evidence of cell injury. This opened major avenues for us since the Drosophila has been used so effectively in so many relevant research areas. We investigated the changes in gene expression in D. melanogaster after severe (1% O(2)) intermittent or constant hypoxia treatment for 2.5 hours. Our microarray analysis has identified multiple gene families that are up- or downregulated in response to acute constant (CH) and intermittent hypoxia (IH). We observed that even for short-term the gene expression response to IH and CH varied not only in the number of genes but also type of gene families. Furthermore, by utilizing powerful Drosophila genetic tools we studied the role of single genes (up- or downregulated in arrays) in survival under either paradigm in adult flies. We observed significant increased adult survival (as compared to controls) of P-element lines for Hsp70 and Hsp23 genes during CH and Mdr49 and l (2)08717 genes during IH. This suggests that the increased transcript levels as observed in array data after either paradigm play an important role under severe hypoxia. Indeed, we found for example that over-expressing Hsp70 in vivo in specific fly organs (such as heart) significantly increased adult survival during CH as compared to controls. These data provide further clues about the mechanisms by which intermittent and constant hypoxia lead to cell injury and morbidity or adaptation and survival.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Drosophila / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*


  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins