Caspase lesions of PVN-projecting MnPO neurons block the sustained component of CIH-induced hypertension in adult male rats

Alexandria B. Marciante, Lei A. Wang, Joel T. Little, J. Thomas Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by interrupted breathing that leads to cardiovascular sequelae including chronic hypertension that can persist into the waking hours. Chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH), which models the hypoxemia associated with sleep apnea, is sufficient to cause a sustained increase in blood pressure that involves the central nervous system. The median preoptic nucleus (MnPO) is an integrative forebrain region that contributes to blood pressure regulation and neurogenic hypertension. The MnPO projects to the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), a preautonomic region. We hypothesized that pathway-specific lesions of the projection from the MnPO to the PVN would attenuate the sustained component of chronic intermittent hypoxia-induced hypertension. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (250 –300 g) were anesthetized with isoflurane and stereotaxically injected bilaterally in the PVN with a retrograde Cre-containing adeno-associated virus (AAV; AAV9.CMV.HI.eGFP-Cre.WPRE.SV40) and injected in the MnPO with caspase-3 (AAV5-flex-taCasp3-TEVp) or control virus (AAV5-hSyn-DIO-mCherry). Three weeks after the injections the rats were exposed to a 7-day intermittent hypoxia protocol. During chronic intermittent hypoxia, controls developed a diurnal hypertension that was blunted in rats with caspase lesions. Brain tissue processed for FosB immunohistochemistry showed decreased staining with caspase-induced lesions of MnPO and downstream autonomic-regulating nuclei. Chronic intermittent hypoxia significantly increased plasma levels of advanced oxidative protein products in controls, but this increase was blocked in caspase-lesioned rats. The results indicate that PVN-projecting MnPO neurons play a significant role in blood pressure regulation in the development of persistent chronic intermittent hypoxia hypertension. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Chronic intermittent hypoxia associated with obstructive sleep apnea increases oxidative stress and leads to chronic hypertension. Sustained hypertension may be mediated by angiotensin II-induced neural plasticity of excitatory median preoptic neurons in the forebrain that project to the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. Selective caspase lesions of these neurons interrupt the drive for sustained hypertension and cause a reduction in circulating oxidative protein products. This indicates that a functional connection between the forebrain and hypothalamus is necessary to drive diurnal hypertension associated with intermittent hypoxia. These results provide new information about central mechanisms that may contribute to neurogenic hypertension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)H34-H48
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • Angiotensin
  • Hypertension
  • Hypoxia
  • Preoptic area
  • Sleep apnea


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