Myocyte adaptation to chronic hypoxia and development of tolerance to subsequent acute severe hypoxia

Howard S. Silverman, Shao Kui Wei, Mark C.P. Haigney*, Christopher J. Ocampo, Michael D. Stern

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Studies in animal models and humans suggest that myocardium may adapt to chronic or intermittent prolonged episodes of reduced coronary perfusion. Stable maintenance of partial flow reduction is difficult to achieve in experimental models; thus, in vitro cellular models may be useful for establishing the mechanisms of adaptation. Since moderate hypoxia is likely to be an important component of the low-flow state, isolated adult rat cardiac myocytes were exposed to 1% O2 for 48 hours to study chronic hypoxic adaptation. Hypoxic culture did not reduce cell viability relative to normoxic controls but did enhance glucose utilization and lactate production, which is consistent with an anaerobic pattern of metabolism. Lactate production remained transiently increased after restoration of normal O2 tension. Myocyte contractility was reduced (video-edge analysis), as was the amplitude of the intracellular Ca2+ transient (indo 1 fluorescence) in hypoxic cells. Relaxation was slowed and was accompanied by a slowed decay of the Ca2+ transient. These changes were not due to alterations in the action potential. Tolerance to subsequent acute severe hypoxia occurred in cells cultured in 1% O2 and was manifested as a delay in the time to full ATP- depletion rigor contracture during severe hypoxia and enhanced morphological recovery of myocytes at reoxygenation. The latter was still seen after normalization of the data for the prolonged time to rigor, suggesting a multifactorial basis for tolerance. An intervening period of normoxic exposure before subsequent acute severe hypoxia did not result in loss of tolerance but rather increased the delay to subsequent ATP depletion rigor. Cellular glycogen was preserved during chronic hypoxic exposure and increased after the restoration of normal O2 tension. As mitochondrial cytochromes should be fully oxygenated at levels well below 1% O2, hypoxic adaptation may be mediated by a low-affinity O2-sensing process. Thus, adaptations that occur during prolonged periods of moderate hypoxia are proposed to poise the myocyte in a better position to tolerate impending episodes of severe O2 deprivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-707
Number of pages9
JournalCirculation research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • adaptation
  • glycogen
  • hypoxia
  • myocyte
  • tolerance


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