Rationale: Chronic exposure to hypoxia is associated with elevated sympathetic nervous activity and reduced vascular function in lowlanders, and Andean highlanders suffering from excessive erythrocytosis (EE); however, the mechanistic link between chronically elevated sympathetic nervous activity and hypoxia-induced vascular dysfunction has not been determined. Objective: To determine the impact of heightened sympathetic nervous activity on resistance artery endothelial-dependent dilation (EDD), and endothelial-independent dilation, in lowlanders and Andean highlanders with and without EE. Methods and Results: We tested healthy lowlanders (n=9) at sea level (344 m) and following 14 to 21 days at high altitude (4300 m), and permanent Andean highlanders with (n=6) and without (n=9) EE at high altitude. Vascular function was assessed using intraarterial infusions (3 progressive doses) of acetylcholine (ACh; EDD) and sodium nitroprusside (endothelial-independent dilation) before and after local + adrenergic receptor blockade (phentolamine and propranolol). Intraarterial blood pressure, heart rate, and simultaneous brachial artery diameter and blood velocity were recorded at rest and during drug infusion. Changes in forearm vascular conductance were calculated. The main findings were (1) chronic hypoxia reduced EDD in lowlanders (changes in forearm vascular conductance from sea level: ACh1:-52.7±19.6%, ACh2:-25.4±38.7%, ACh3:-35.1±34.7%, all P≤0.02); and in Andeans with EE compared with non-EE (changes in forearm vascular conductance at ACh3:-36.4%, P=0.007). Adrenergic blockade fully restored EDD in lowlanders at high altitude, and normalized EDD between EE and non-EE Andeans. (2) Chronic hypoxia had no effect on endothelial-independent dilation in lowlanders, and no differences were detected between EE and non-EE Andeans; however, EID was increased in the non-EE Andeans after adrenergic blockade (P=0.012), but this effect was not observed in the EE Andeans. Conclusions: These data indicate that chronic hypoxia reduces EDD via heightened -adrenergic signaling in lowlanders and in Andeans with EE. These vascular mechanisms have important implications for understanding the physiological consequences of acute and chronic high altitude adaptation.
- blood pressure
- brachial artery
- heart rate
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine