The impact of chronic intermittent hypoxia on hematopoiesis and the bone marrow microenvironment

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Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a highly prevalent sleep-related breathing disorder which is associated with patient morbidity and an elevated risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. There is ample evidence for the involvement of bone marrow (BM) cells in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular diseases but a connection between OSA and modulation of the BM microenvironment had not been established. Here, we studied how chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) affected hematopoiesis and the BM microenvironment, in a rat model of OSA. We show that CIH followed by normoxia increases the bone marrow hypoxic area, increases the number of multipotent hematopoietic progenitors (CFU assay), promotes erythropoiesis, and increases monocyte counts. In the BM microenvironment of CIH-subjected animals, the number of VE-cadherin-expressing blood vessels, particularly sinusoids, increased, accompanied by increased smooth muscle cell coverage, while vWF-positive vessels decreased. Molecularly, we investigated the expression of endothelial cell-derived genes (angiocrine factors) that could explain the cellular phenotypes. Accordingly, we observed an increase in colony-stimulating factor 1, vascular endothelium growth factor, delta-like 4, and angiopoietin-1 expression. Our data shows that CIH induces vascular remodeling in the BM microenvironment, which modulates hematopoiesis, increasing erythropoiesis, and circulating monocytes. Our study reveals for the first time the effect of CIH in hematopoiesis and suggests that hematopoietic changes may occur in OSA patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-32
Number of pages14
JournalPflugers Archiv-European Journal Of Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


  • Chronic intermittent hypoxia
  • Hematopoiesis
  • Vascular niche
  • Bone marrow microenvironment


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