In 1911, work by Haldane, Fitzgerald and colleagues revealed the extraordinary sensitivity of blood haemoglobin levels to reduced atmospheric oxygen levels, a finding that introduced the physiological concept of an oxygen sensor. This lecture outlines advances in the molecular understanding of oxygen sensing mechanisms, including the remarkable finding that all eukaryotic kingdoms use enzymatic protein oxidations coupled to proteostasis to signal oxygen levels in their cells. The physiological implications of these advances are discussed, together with the opportunities and challenges raised in the therapeutic modulation of human oxygen sensing systems.
Professor Sir Peter J Ratcliffe FRS is Director of the Target Discovery Institute, and a Member of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences and is an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the 2014 New Year’s Honours List, he was knighted for services to clinical medicine.
In October 2019, Professor Ratcliffe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, alongside William Kaelin Jr at Harvard University and Gregg Semenza at Johns Hopkins University. Click here for more information.
The video of the J.S. Haldane Lecture is also available to watch on The University of Oxford Podcasts website.