Oxygen is fundamentally important for cell metabolism, and as a consequence, O₂ deprivation (hypoxia) can impair many essential physiological processes. Here, we show that an active response to hypoxia disrupts cellular proteostasis - the coordination of protein synthesis, quality control, and degradation that maintains the functionality of the proteome. We have discovered that specific hypoxic conditions enhance the aggregation and toxicity of aggregation-prone proteins that are associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Our data indicate this is an active response to hypoxia, rather than a passive consequence of energy limitation. This response to hypoxia is partially antagonized by the conserved hypoxia-inducible transcription factor, hif-1. We further demonstrate that exposure to hydrogen sulfide (H₂S) protects animals from hypoxia-induced disruption of proteostasis. H₂S has been shown to protect against hypoxic damage in mammals and extends lifespan in nematodes. Remarkably, our data also show that H₂S can reverse detrimental effects of hypoxia on proteostasis. Our data indicate that the protective effects of H₂S in hypoxia are mechanistically distinct from the effect of H₂S to increase lifespan and thermotolerance, suggesting that control of proteostasis and aging can be dissociated. Together, our studies reveal a novel effect of the hypoxia response in animals and provide a foundation to understand how the integrated proteostasis network is integrated with this stress response pathway.
Keywords: C. elegans; H2S; Polyglutamine; hypoxia; oxygen; protein aggregation; proteostasis.
© 2014 The Authors. Aging Cell published by the Anatomical Society and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.