Genomics. 2023 Oct 31:110739. doi: 10.1016/j.ygeno.2023.110739. Online ahead of print.
To study the mitochondrial and cellular responses to physiological and pathological hypoxia, corneal epithelial cells were preconditioned under 21% O2, 8% O2 or 1% O2. The cell survival rate, mitochondrial fluorescence and mitophagy flux were quantified using flow cytometry. After RNA sequencing, gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) was performed. When the oxygen level decreased from 21% to 8%, mitochondrial fluorescence decreased by 45% (p < 0.001), accompanied by an 80% increase in mitophagy flux (p < 0.001). When the oxygen level dropped to 1%, the cell survival rate and mitochondrial fluorescence decreased, while mitophagy flux further increased (each p < 0.001). Comparison of 1% O2 vs. 21% O2 revealed enrichment of the HYPOXIA hallmark. Most of the significantly enriched mitochondrion-related gene sets were involved in apoptosis. The corresponding foremost leading edge genes belonged to the BCL-2 family. Corneal epithelial cell fate decisions under hypoxia may involve noncanonical pathways of mitophagy.