Mitochondria in the pulmonary vasculature in health and disease: oxygen-sensing, metabolism, and dynamics

Asish Dasgupta, Danchen Wu, Lian Tian, Ping Yu Xiong, Kimberly J. Dunham-Snary, Kuang-Hueih Chen, Elahe Alizadeh, Mehras Motamed, François Potus, Charles C.T. Hindmarch, Stephen L. Archer

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In lung vascular cells, mitochondria serve a canonical metabolic role, governing energy homeostasis. In addition, mitochondria exist in dynamic networks, which serve noncanonical functions, including regulation of redox signaling, cell cycle, apoptosis, and mitochondrial quality control. Mitochondria in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMC) are oxygen sensors and initiate hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. Acquired dysfunction of mitochondrial metabolism and dynamics contribute to a cancer‐like phenotype in pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Acquired mitochondrial abnormalities, such as increased pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase (PDK) and pyruvate kinase muscle isoform 2 (PKM2) expression, which increase uncoupled glycolysis (the Warburg phenomenon), are implicated in PAH. Warburg metabolism sustains energy homeostasis by the inhibition of oxidative metabolism that reduces mitochondrial apoptosis, allowing unchecked cell accumulation. Warburg metabolism is initiated by the induction of a pseudohypoxic state, in which DNA methyltransferase (DNMT)‐mediated changes in redox signaling cause normoxic activation of HIF‐1α and increase PDK expression. Furthermore, mitochondrial division is coordinated with nuclear division through a process called mitotic fission. Increased mitotic fission in PAH, driven by increased fission and reduced fusion favors rapid cell cycle progression and apoptosis resistance. Downregulation of the mitochondrial calcium uniporter complex (MCUC) occurs in PAH and is one potential unifying mechanism linking Warburg metabolism and mitochondrial fission. Mitochondrial metabolic and dynamic disorders combine to promote the hyperproliferative, apoptosis‐resistant, phenotype in PAH PASMC, endothelial cells, and fibroblasts. Understanding the molecular mechanism regulating mitochondrial metabolism and dynamics has permitted identification of new biomarkers, nuclear and CT imaging modalities, and new therapeutic targets for PAH.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-765
Number of pages53
JournalComprehensive Physiology
Issue number2
Early online date12 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2020


  • vascular cells
  • hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction
  • mitotic fission

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