Edinburgh Imaging

09 Oct 18. Featured Paper

The LKB1–AMPK-α1 signaling pathway triggers hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction downstream of mitochondria.

Link to paper on Science Signaling.


Javier Moral-Sanz, Sophronia A. Lewis, Sandy MacMillan, Fiona A. Ross, Adrian Thomson, Benoit Viollet, Marc Foretz, Carmel Moran, D. Grahame Hardie, and A. Mark Evans



Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV), which aids ventilation-perfusion matching in the lungs, is triggered by mechanisms intrinsic to pulmonary arterial smooth muscles. The unique sensitivity of these muscles to hypoxia is conferred by mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 4 isoform 2, the inhibition of which has been proposed to trigger HPV through increased generation of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species. Contrary to this model, we have shown that the LKB1AMPK-α1 signaling pathway is critical to HPV. Spectral Doppler ultrasound revealed that deletion of the AMPK-α1 catalytic subunit blocked HPV in mice during mild (8% O2) and severe (5% O2) hypoxia, whereas AMPK-α2 deletion attenuated HPV only during severe hypoxia. By contrast, neither of these genetic manipulations affected serotonin-induced reductions in pulmonary vascular flow. HPV was also attenuated by reduced expression of LKB1, a kinase that activates AMPK during energy stress, but not after deletion of CaMKK2, a kinase that activates AMPK in response to increases in cytoplasmic Ca2+. Fluorescence imaging of acutely isolated pulmonary arterial myocytes revealed that AMPK-α1 or AMPK-α2 deletion did not affect mitochondrial membrane potential during normoxia or hypoxia. However, deletion of AMPK-α1, but not of AMPK-α2, blocked hypoxia from inhibiting KV1.5, the classical “oxygen-sensing” K+ channel in pulmonary arterial myocytes. We conclude that LKB1–AMPK-α1 signaling pathways downstream of mitochondria are critical for the induction of HPV, in a manner also supported by AMPK-α2 during severe hypoxia.

  • Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV)
  • Ultrasound
  • AMPK-alpha1
  • AMPK-alpha2
  • LBK1