Mechanisms of intermittent hypoxia induced hypertension. Academic Article Review uri icon


  • Exposing rodents to brief episodes of hypoxia mimics the hypoxemia and the cardiovascular and metabolic effects observed in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), a condition that affects between 5% and 20% of the population. Apart from daytime sleepiness, OSA is associated with a high incidence of systemic and pulmonary hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, stroke and sudden cardiac death. The development of animal models to study sleep apnoea has provided convincing evidence that recurrent exposure to intermittent hypoxia (IH) has significant vascular and haemodynamic impact that explain much of the cardiovascular morbidity and mortality observed in patients with sleep apnoea. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms of how IH causes these changes is unclear and under investigation. This review focuses on the most recent findings addressing these mechanisms. It includes a discussion of the contribution of the nervous system, circulating and vascular factors, inflammatory mediators and transcription factors to IH-induced cardiovascular disease. It also highlights the importance of reactive oxygen species as a primary mediator of the systemic and pulmonary hypertension that develops in response to exposure to IH.

publication date

  • January 2010