Mutation of the von Hippel-Lindau gene alters human cardiopulmonary physiology.
Smith TG., Brooks JT., Balanos GM., Lappin TR., Layton DM., Leedham DL., Liu C., Maxwell PH., McMullin MF., McNamara CJ., Percy MJ., Pugh CW., Ratcliffe PJ., Talbot NP., Treacy M., Robbins PA.
Intracellular responses to hypoxia are coordinated by the von Hippel-Lindau--hypoxia-inducible factor (VHL-HIF) transcriptional system. This study investigated the potential role of the VHL-HIF pathway in human systems-level physiology. Patients diagnosed with Chuvash polycythaemia, a rare disorder in which VHL signalling is specifically impaired, were studied during acute hypoxia and hypercapnia. Subjects breathed through a mouthpiece and ventilation was measured while pulmonary vascular tone was assessed echocardiographically. The patients were found to have elevated basal ventilation and pulmonary vascular tone, and ventilatory, pulmonary vasoconstrictive and heart rate responses to acute hypoxia were greatly increased, as were heart rate responses to hypercapnia. The patients also had abnormal pulmonary function on spirometry. This study's findings demonstrate that the VHL-HIF signalling pathway, which is so central to intracellular oxygen sensing, also regulates the organ systems upon which cellular oxygen delivery ultimately depends.