The journal of histochemistry and cytochemistry : official journal of the Histochemistry Society

Diaphragm muscle remodeling in a rat model of chronic intermittent hypoxia.

PMID 23640977


Respiratory muscle remodeling occurs in human sleep apnea--a common respiratory disorder characterized by chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) due to recurrent apnea during sleep. We sought to determine if CIH causes remodeling in rat sternohyoid (upper airway dilator) and diaphragm muscles. Adult male Wistar rats were exposed to CIH (n=8), consisting of 90 sec of hypoxia (5% at the nadir; SaO₂ ~80%)/90 sec of normoxia, 8 hr per day, for 7 consecutive days. Sham animals (n=8) were exposed to alternating air/air cycles in parallel. The effect of CIH on myosin heavy-chain (MHC) isoform (1, 2a, 2x, 2b) distribution, sarcoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA) isoform distribution, succinate dehydrogenase activity, glycerol phosphate dehydrogenase activity, and Na⁺/K⁺ ATPase pump content was determined. Sternohyoid muscle structure was unaffected by CIH treatment. CIH did not alter oxidative/glycolytic capacity or the Na⁺/K⁺-ATPase pump content of the diaphragm. CIH significantly increased the areal density of MHC 2b fibers in the rat diaphragm, and this was associated with a shift in SERCA proteins from SERCA2 to SERCA1. We conclude that CIH causes a slow-to-fast fiber transition in the rat diaphragm after just 7 days of treatment. Respiratory muscle functional remodeling may drive aberrant functional plasticity such as decreased muscle endurance, which is a feature of human sleep apnea.