Mitochondrial content and distribution changes specific to mouse diaphragm after chronic normobaric hypoxia

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2010 Mar;298(3):R575-83. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00320.2009. Epub 2009 Dec 9.


Chronic hypoxia reduces aerobic capacity (mitochondrial content) in limb skeletal muscles, and one of the causes seems to be decreased physical activity. Diaphragm and other respiratory muscles, however, may have a different pattern of adaptation as hypoxia increases the work of breathing. Thus, we hypothesized that chronic hypoxia would not reduce mitochondrial content in mouse diaphragm. Adult male C57BL/6J mice were kept in normoxia (Fi(O(2)) = 21%, control) or normobaric hypoxia (Fi(O(2)) = 10%, hypoxia) for 1, 2, and 4 wk. Mice were then killed, and the diaphragm and gastrocnemius muscles collected for analysis. In the diaphragm, cytochrome c oxidase histochemistry showed less intense staining in the hypoxia group. The total content of subunits from the electron transport chain, pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 (PDK1), and voltage-dependent anion channel 1 (VDAC1) was evaluated by Western blot. These proteins decreased by 25-30% after 4 wk of hypoxia (P < 0.05 vs. control for all comparisons), matching a comparable decrease in diaphragmatic mitochondrial volume density (control 33.6 +/- 5.5% vs. hypoxia 26.8 +/- 6.7%, P = 0.013). Mitochondrial volume density or protein content did not change in gastrocnemius after hypoxia. Hypoxia decreased the content of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma) and PPARgamma cofactor 1-alpha (PGC-1alpha) in diaphragm but not in gastrocnemius. PGC-1alpha mRNA levels in diaphragm were also reduced with hypoxia. BCL2/adenovirus E1B interacting protein 3 (BNIP-3) mRNA levels were upregulated after 1 and 2 wk of hypoxia in diaphragm and gastrocnemius, respectively; BNIP-3 protein content increased only in the diaphragm after 4 wk of hypoxia. Contrary to our hypothesis, these results show that chronic hypoxia decreases mitochondrial content in mouse diaphragm, despite the increase in workload. A combination of reduced mitochondrial biogenesis and increased mitophagy seems to be responsible for the decrease in mitochondrial content in the mouse diaphragm after hypoxia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Autophagy / physiology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diaphragm / enzymology
  • Diaphragm / physiology*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / enzymology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Oxygen / pharmacology
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator 1-alpha
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors


  • BNip3 protein, mouse
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • PPAR gamma
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Coactivator 1-alpha
  • Ppargc1a protein, mouse
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors
  • Electron Transport Complex IV
  • Oxygen