Estradiol Protects Against Cardiorespiratory Dysfunctions and Oxidative Stress in Intermittent Hypoxia

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Study Objectives

We tested the hypothesis that estradiol (E2) protects against cardiorespiratory disorders and oxidative stress induced by chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) in adult female rats.


Sprague-Dawley female rats (230-250 g) were ovariectomized and implanted with osmotic pumps delivering vehicle or E2 (0.5 mg/kg/d). After 14 days of recovery, the rats were exposed to CIH (21%-10% O2: 8 h/d, 10 cycles per hour) or room air (RA). After 7 days of CIH or RA exposure, we measured arterial pressures (tail cuff), metabolic rate (indirect calorimetry), minute ventilation, the frequency of sighs and apneas at rest, and ventilatory responses to hypoxia and hypercapnia (whole body plethysmography). We collected the cerebral cortex, brainstem, and adrenal glands to measure the activity of NADPH and xanthine oxidase (pro-oxidant enzymes), glutathione peroxidase, and the mitochondrial and cytosolic superoxide dismutase (antioxidant enzymes) and measured lipid peroxidation and advanced oxidation protein products (markers of oxidative stress).


CIH increased arterial pressure, the frequency of apnea at rest, and the hypoxic and hypercapnic ventilatory responses and reduced metabolic rate. CIH also increased oxidant enzyme activities and decreased antioxidant activity in the cortex. E2 treatment reduced body weight and prevented the effects of CIH.


E2 prevents cardiorespiratory disorders and oxidative stress induced by CIH. These observations may help to better understand the underlying mechanisms linking menopause and occurrence of sleep apnea in women and highlight a potential advantage of hormone therapy.

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