Downregulation of duodenal SLC transporters and activation of proinflammatory signaling constitute the early response to high altitude in humans.
Solute carrier (SLC) transporters mediate the uptake of biologically active compounds in the intestine. Reduced oxygenation (hypoxia) is an important factor influencing intestinal homeostasis. The aim of this study was to investigate the pathophysiological consequences of hypoxia on the expression and function of SLCs in human intestine. Hypoxia was induced in human intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) in vitro (0.2; 1% O2 or CoCl2). For human in vivo studies, duodenal biopsies and serum samples were obtained from individuals (n = 16) acutely exposed to 4,554 meters above sea levels. Expression of relevant targets was analyzed by quantitative PCR, Western blotting, or immunofluorescence. Serum levels of inflammatory mediators and nucleosides were determined by ELISA and LC/MS-MS, respectively. In the duodenum of volunteers exposed to high altitude we observed decreased mRNA levels of apical sodium-dependent bile acid transporter (ASBT), concentrative nucleoside transporters 1/2 (CNT1/2), organic anion transporting polypeptide 2B1 (OATP2B1), organic cation transporter 2 (OCTN2), peptide transporter 1 (PEPT1), serotonin transporter (SERT), and higher levels of IFN-?, IL-6, and IL-17A. Serum levels of IL-10, IFN-?, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), and serotonin were elevated, whereas the levels of uridine decreased upon exposure to hypoxia. Hypoxic IECs showed reduced levels of equilibrative nucleoside transporter 2 (ENT2), OCTN2, and SERT mRNAs in vitro, which was confirmed on the protein level and was accompanied by activation of ERK1/2, increase of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) proteins, and production of IL-8 mRNA. Costimulation with IFN-? and IL-6 during hypoxia further decreased the expression of SERT, ENT2, and CNT2 in vitro. Reduced oxygen supply affects the expression pattern of duodenal SLCs that is accompanied by changes in serum levels of proinflammatory cytokines and biologically active compounds demonstrating that intestinal transport is affected during systemic exposure to hypoxia in humans.