Chronic intermittent hypoxia increases sympathetic control of blood pressure: Role of neuronal activity in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus

Amanda L. Sharpe, Alfredo S. Calderon, Mary Ann Andrade, J. Thomas Cunningham, Steven W. Mifflin, Glenn M. Toney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Like humans with sleep apnea, rats exposed to chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) experience arterial hypoxemias and develop hypertension characterized by exaggerated sympathetic nerve activity (SNA). To gain insights into the poorly understood mechanisms that initiate sleep apnea/CIH-associated hypertension, experiments were performed in rats exposed to CIH for only 7 days. Compared with sham-treated normoxic control rats, CIH-exposed rats (n = 8 rats/group) had significantly increased hematocrit (P <0.001) and mean arterial pressure (MAP; P < 0.05). Blockade of ganglionic transmission caused a significantly (P < 0.05) greater reduction of MAP in rats exposed to CIH than control rats (n = 8 rats/group), indicating a greater contribution of SNA in the support of MAP even at this early stage of CIH hypertension. Chemical inhibition of neuronal discharge in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) (100 pmol muscimol) had no effect on renal SNA but reduced lumbar SNA (P < 0.005) and MAP (P < 0.05) more in CIH-exposed rats (n = 8) than control rats (n = 7), indicating that CIH increased the contribution of PVN neuronal activity in the support of lumbar SNA and MAP. Because CIH activates brain regions controlling body fluid homeostasis, the effects of internal carotid artery injection of hypertonic saline were tested and determined to increase lumbar SNA more (P <0.05) in CIH-exposed rats than in control rats (n = 9 rats/group). We conclude that neurogenic mechanisms are activated early in the development of CIH hypertension such that elevated MAP relies on increased sympathetic tonus and ongoing PVN neuronal activity. The increased sensitivity of Na+/osmosensitive circuitry in CIH-exposed rats suggests that early neuroadaptive responses among body fluid regulatory neurons could contribute to the initiation of CIH hypertension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1772-H1780
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2013


  • Body fluid balance
  • Hyperosmolality
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sympathetic nerve activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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