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Biochem J. 2001 Apr 15;355(Pt 2):389-95.

Hierarchies of ATP-consuming processes: direct compared with indirect measurements, and comparative aspects.

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Institut für Zoologie und Limnologie, Universität Innsbruck, Technikerstrasse 25, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


The original aim of the present study was to deal with two problems that had emerged from a study on hierarchies of ATP-consuming processes in cells [Buttgereit and Brand (1995) Biochem. J. 312, 163-167]. Firstly, we wanted to find out whether the results of that study had been influenced by the method used for the determination of process activity and, secondly, we wondered whether and to what extent the structure of the hierarchy established for cell suspensions under energy-limiting conditions might depend on the type of cell or on the lifestyle, ecology and phylogenetic status of the species from which the cells were derived. We confined our study to the two most prominent ATP consumers of cells: protein synthesis and the Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase, measuring their activity directly by [3H]leucine incorporation and Rb(+)-flux respectively. We found large differences in the sensitivity of protein synthesis to energy limitation between hepatocytes from an anoxia-tolerant fish species and an anoxia-sensitive fish species (goldfish and rainbow trout respectively). On the other hand, Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase activity was hardly affected by energy limitation in the hepatocytes from both fish species. We also studied the response of a human hepatoma cell line, HepG2, to energy limitation and found both protein synthesis and Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase activity to be equally sensitive to energy limitation, but more sensitive than the Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase of the two fish species. A comparison of the indirect and direct methods for measuring protein synthesis revealed the rate of oxygen consumption to be functionally related to the concentration of cycloheximide, the inhibitor used. It was found that at 15 mM cycloheximide [three orders of magnitude higher than the concentration at which the incorporation of free amino acids (FAA) into protein is inhibited] total oxygen consumption was suppressed by 71-75%, whereas the measured rate of [3H]leucine incorporation into protein suggested that the cycloheximide-sensitive fraction should have amounted to not more than approx. 10% of the total oxygen consumption. On the other hand, the amount of oxygen consumption suppressed with the high concentration of cycloheximide corresponded almost exactly to the increase in oxygen consumption of cells incubated in an FAA-enriched medium compared with cells incubated in a standard, FAA-free medium. Our major conclusions are, firstly, that high concentrations of cycloheximide disrupt cellular metabolism, bringing to a standstill all those processes that can be stimulated by incubating starved cells in an FAA-enriched medium, secondly, that the attempt to estimate the metabolic cost of protein synthesis by inhibiting oxygen consumption with cycloheximide leads to spurious results, and, thirdly, that the structure of a 'hierarchy' of ATP-consumers may reflect the lifestyle and physiology of the species studied.

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