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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2015 Feb;52(2):162-70. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2014-0213OC.

Effects of chronic intermittent hypoxia on allergen-induced airway inflammation in rats.

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1 James B. Skatrud Pulmonary/Sleep Research Laboratory, Medical Service, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Administration Hospital, Madison, Wisconsin; and.


Obstructive sleep apnea aggravates asthma, but its mechanisms are unknown. Chronic intermittent hypoxia is one hallmark feature of sleep apnea. In this study, we tested the effects of chronic intermittent hypoxia on allergen-induced inflammation in rats. Four groups (n = 9-11/group) of ovalbumin (OVA)-sensitized Brown-Norway rats underwent intermittent hypoxia (10% oxygen, 30 cycles/h, 10 h/d) or normoxia for 30 days concurrent with weekly OVA or vehicle challenges. Lung physiology, differential leukocyte counts from bronchoalveolar lavage, and histology (Picro Sirius Red staining for collagen content) were compared between groups 2 days after the last challenge. Gene expression in bronchoalveolar lavage cells was quantified by quantitative PCR. Compared with normoxia, chronic intermittent hypoxia reduced the FEV0.1/FVC ratio (P = 0.005), peak expiratory flow (P = 0.002), and mean midexpiratory flow (P = 0.004), predominantly in medium and large airways; decreased the baseline eosinophil number (P = 0.01) and amplified the effect of OVA on monocyte number (P = 0.02 for the interaction); in proximal airways, increased (P = 0.008), whereas in distal airways it decreased (P = 0.004), collagen density; induced qualitative emphysematous changes in lung periphery; and increased expression of the M2 macrophage marker YM-1 and augmented OVA-induced expression of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. Chronic intermittent hypoxia alters immune response to allergen toward a more TH-1-predominant cellular phenotype with collagen deposition and matrix degradation, leading to airflow limitation. These findings highlight the potential of sleep apnea to aggravate airway dysfunction in patients with preexistent asthma.


airway remodeling, immunology; animal; disease models; fibrosis; lung immunology, metabolism, pathology; rats

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