Background: Carotid body (peripheral oxygen sensor) sensitisation is pivotal in the development of chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH)-induced hypertension. We sought to determine if exposure to CIH, modelling human sleep apnoea, adversely affects cardiorespiratory control in guinea-pigs, a species with hypoxia-insensitive carotid bodies. We reasoned that CIH-induced disruption of gutmicrobiota would evoke cardiorespiratory morbidity.
Methods: Adult male guinea-pigs were exposed to CIH (6.5% O-2 at nadir, 6 cycles. hour(-1)) for 8 h.day(-1) for 12 consecutive days.
Findings: CIH-exposed animals established reduced faecal microbiota species richness, with increased relative abundance of Bacteroidetes and reduced relative abundance of Firmicutes bacteria. Urinary corticosterone and noradrenaline levels were unchanged in CIH-exposed animals, but brainstem noradrenaline concentrations were lower compared with sham. Baseline ventilation was equivalent in CIH-exposed and sham animals; however, respiratory timing variability, sigh frequency and ventilation during hypoxic breathing were all lower in CIH-exposed animals. Baseline arterial blood pressure was unaffected by exposure to CIH, but beta-adrenoceptor-dependent tachycardia and blunted bradycardia during phenylephrine-induced pressor responses was evident compared with sham controls.
Interpretation: Increased carotid body chemo-afferent signalling appears obligatory for the development of CIH-induced hypertension and elevated chemoreflex control of breathing commonly reported in mammals, with hypoxia-sensitive carotid bodies. However, we reveal that exposure to modest CIH alters gutmicrobiota richness and composition, brainstem neurochemistry, and autonomic control of heart rate, independent of carotid body sensitisation, suggesting modulation of breathing and autonomic homeostasis via the microbiota-gut-brainstem axis. The findings have relevance to human sleep-disordered breathing. Funding: The Department of Physiology, and APC Microbiome Ireland, UCC. (c) 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.