Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species are required for hypoxia-induced degradation of keratin intermediate filaments

Ni Na, Navdeep S. Chandel, Juan Litvan, Karen M. Ridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Hypoxia can cause stress and structural changes to the epithelial cytoskeleton. The intermediate filament (IF) network is known to reorganize in response to stress. We examined whether rats exposed to hypoxia had altered keratin IF expression in their alveolar epithelial type II (ATII) cells. There was a significant decrease in keratin protein levels in hypoxic ATII cells compared with those in ATII cells isolated from normoxic rats. To define the mechanisms regulating this process we studied changes to the keratin IF network in A549 cells (an alveolar epithelial cell line) exposed to 1.5% oxygen. We observed a time-dependent disassembly-degradation of keratin 8 and 18 proteins, which was associated with an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS). Hypoxia-treated A549 cells deficient in mitochondrial DNA or A549 cells treated with a small interfering RNA against the Rieske iron-sulfur protein of mitochondrial complex III did not have increased levels of ROS nor was the keratin IF network disassembled and degraded. The superoxide dismutase (SOD)/catalase mimetic (EUK-134) prevented the hypoxia-mediated keratin IF degradation as did the overexpression of SOD1 but not of SOD2. Accordingly, we provide evidence that hypoxia promotes the disassembly and degradation of the keratin IF network via mitochondrial complex III-generated reactive oxygen species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-809
Number of pages11
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Alveolar epithelial cells
  • Lung
  • Superoxide dismutase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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