Studies were performed to determine the effects of chronic hypoxia on enzymes that catalyze various detoxication reactions. Rats were exposed to room air or 10.5% O2 for 10 days, and microsomes and postmicrosomal supernatants were isolated from liver. Detoxication enzyme activities were measured by radiochemical and spectrophotometric assays, and immunoreactive protein amounts were measured by Western blot analysis. Total cytochrome P450, as measured by the CO-difference spectrum, and activities of Superoxide dismutase (EC 220.127.116.11), epoxide hydrolase (EC 18.104.22.168), catalase (EC 22.214.171.124), glutathione disulfide reductase (EC 126.96.36.199), and glutathione (GSH) S-transferase (EC 188.8.131.52) were not affected by this extent of hypoxia. In contrast, 10 days of hypoxia decreased activities or immunoreactivities (% of aerobic) of GSH peroxidase (EC 184.108.40.206) (54%), cytochrome P450EtOH2 (42%), CYP3A1 (53%), sulfotransferase (EC 220.127.116.11) (77%) and UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (EC 18.104.22.168) (65%). Activity of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (EC 22.214.171.124), an important enzyme in NADPH production was also decreased to 56% of the aerobic value, but Western blot analysis showed that the amount of protein reactive with antibodies to glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase was not affected by hypoxia. Thus, hypoxia may decrease activity of enzymes by regulatory mechanisms even though the amount of immuno-detectable enzyme is unchanged. Liver cells isolated from rats exposed to hypoxia also gave lower GSH synthetic rates than cells from normoxic rats. This result, together with the effect of hypoxia on glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, indicates that the GSH supply for GSH-dependent detoxication reactions may be limited due to chronic hypoxia. To test directly whether chronic hypoxia increased sensitivity to a compound normally detoxified by a GSH-dependent reaction, sensitivity to (tert-butyl hydroperoxide (t-BuOOH) of hepatocytes from rats exposed to in vivo hypoxia was compared to that from normoxic rats. The results showed that the cells from the hypoxic rats were much more sensitive to injury. Taken together, these results suggest that decreases in amounts and/or activities of detoxication enzymes during chronic hypoxia may result in increased susceptibility of cells to chemical injury.
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