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PLoS One. 2007 May 30;2(5):e490.

Experimental selection for Drosophila survival in extremely low O(2) environment.

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Department of Pediatrics, Section of Respiratory Medicine, and Neuroscience, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States of America.



Cellular hypoxia, if severe enough, results usually in injury or cell death. Our research in this area has focused on the molecular mechanisms underlying hypoxic tissue injury to explore strategies to prevent injury or enhance tolerance. The current experiments were designed to determine the genetic basis for adaptation to long term low O(2) environments.


With long term experimental selection over many generations, we obtained a Drosophila melanogaster strain that can live perpetually in extremely low, normally lethal, O(2) condition (as low as 4% O(2)). This strain shows a dramatic phenotypic divergence from controls, including a decreased recovery time from anoxic stupor, a higher rate of O(2 )consumption in hypoxic conditions, and a decreased body size and mass due to decreased cell number and size. Expression arrays showed that about 4% of the Drosophila genome altered in expression and about half of the alteration was down-regulation. The contribution of some altered transcripts to hypoxia tolerance was examined by testing the survival of available corresponding P-element insertions (and their excisions) under extremely low O(2) conditions. We found that down-regulation of several candidate genes including Best1, broad, CG7102, dunce, lin19-like and sec6 conferred severe hypoxia tolerance in Drosophila.


We have identified a number of genes that play an important role in the survival of a selected Drosophila strain in extremely low O(2) conditions, selected by decreasing O(2) availability over many generations. Because of conservation of pathways, we believe that such genes are critical in hypoxia adaptation in physiological or pathological conditions not only in Drosophila but also in mammals.

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