Reduced membrane cholesterol after chronic hypoxia limits Orai1-mediated pulmonary endothelial Ca2+ entry. Academic Article uri icon


  • Endothelial dysfunction in chronic hypoxia (CH)-induced pulmonary hypertension is characterized by reduced store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE) and diminished Ca2+-dependent production of endothelium-derived vasodilators. We recently reported that SOCE in pulmonary arterial endothelial cells (PAECs) is tightly regulated by membrane cholesterol and that decreased membrane cholesterol is responsible for impaired SOCE after CH. However, the ion channels involved in cholesterol-sensitive SOCE are unknown. We hypothesized that cholesterol facilitates SOCE in PAECs through the interaction of Orai1 and stromal interaction molecule 1 (STIM1). The role of cholesterol in Orai1-mediated SOCE was initially assessed using CH exposure in rats (4 wk, 380 mmHg) as a physiological stimulus to decrease PAEC cholesterol. The effects of Orai1 inhibition with AnCoA4 on SOCE were examined in isolated PAEC sheets from control and CH rats after cholesterol supplementation, substitution of endogenous cholesterol with epicholesterol (Epichol), or vehicle treatment. Whereas cholesterol restored endothelial SOCE in CH rats, both Epichol and AnCoA4 attenuated SOCE only in normoxic controls. The Orai1 inhibitor had no further effect in cells pretreated with Epichol. Using cultured pulmonary endothelial cells to allow better mechanistic analysis of the molecular components of cholesterol-regulated SOCE, we found that Epichol, AnCoA4, and Orai1 siRNA each inhibited SOCE compared with their respective controls. Epichol had no additional effect after knockdown of Orai1. Furthermore, Epichol substitution significantly reduced STIM1-Orai1 interactions as assessed by a proximity ligation assay. We conclude that membrane cholesterol is required for the STIM1-Orai1 interaction necessary to elicit endothelial SOCE. Furthermore, reduced PAEC membrane cholesterol after CH limits Orai1-mediated SOCE. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This research demonstrates a novel contribution of cholesterol to regulate the interaction of Orai1 and stromal interaction molecule 1 required for pulmonary endothelial store-operated Ca2+ entry. The results provide a mechanistic basis for impaired pulmonary endothelial Ca2+ influx after chronic hypoxia that may contribute to pulmonary hypertension.

publication date

  • December 2018