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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2019 Nov 1;317(5):L639-L652. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00396.2018. Epub 2019 Aug 28.

Regulation of mitochondrial fragmentation in microvascular endothelial cells isolated from the SU5416/hypoxia model of pulmonary arterial hypertension.

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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
Department of Physiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.
Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.


Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a morbid disease characterized by progressive right ventricle (RV) failure due to elevated pulmonary artery pressures (PAP). In PAH, histologically complex vaso-occlusive lesions in the pulmonary vasculature contribute to elevated PAP. However, the mechanisms underlying dysfunction of the microvascular endothelial cells (MVECs) that comprise a significant portion of these lesions are not well understood. We recently showed that MVECs isolated from the Sugen/hypoxia (SuHx) rat experimental model of PAH (SuHx-MVECs) exhibit increases in migration/proliferation, mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS; mtROS) production, intracellular calcium levels ([Ca2+]i), and mitochondrial fragmentation. Furthermore, quenching mtROS with the targeted antioxidant MitoQ attenuated basal [Ca2+]i, migration and proliferation; however, whether increased mtROS-induced [Ca2+]i entry affected mitochondrial morphology was not clear. In this study, we sought to better understand the relationship between increased ROS, [Ca2+]i, and mitochondrial morphology in SuHx-MVECs. We measured changes in mitochondrial morphology at baseline and following inhibition of mtROS, with the targeted antioxidant MitoQ, or transient receptor potential vanilloid-4 (TRPV4) channels, which we previously showed were responsible for mtROS-induced increases in [Ca2+]i in SuHx-MVECs. Quenching mtROS or inhibiting TRPV4 attenuated fragmentation in SuHx-MVECs. Conversely, inducing mtROS production in MVECs from normoxic rats (N-MVECs) increased fragmentation. Ca2+ entry induced by the TRPV4 agonist GSK1017920A was significantly increased in SuHx-MVECs and was attenuated with MitoQ treatment, indicating that mtROS contributes to increased TRPV4 activity in SuHx-MVECs. Basal and maximal respiration were depressed in SuHx-MVECs, and inhibiting mtROS, but not TRPV4, improved respiration in these cells. Collectively, our data show that, in SuHx-MVECs, mtROS production promotes TRPV4-mediated increases in [Ca2+]i, mitochondrial fission, and decreased mitochondrial respiration. These results suggest an important role for mtROS in driving MVEC dysfunction in PAH.


PAH; calcium; endothelium; mitochondria


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