Effect of N-acetyl-cysteine and hyperoxia on erythropoietin production

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Nov;111(11):2681-6. doi: 10.1007/s00421-011-1893-4. Epub 2011 Mar 11.


Previous studies in healthy subjects have shown an increase in erythropoietin (EPO) production after administration of N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). These authors hypothesized that NAC increases intracellular reduced glutathione, decreasing reactive oxygen species and enabling EPO production. We investigated if EPO production could be stimulated with a single dose of NAC, after 90 min of pure oxygen breathing. Thirty-eight healthy volunteers were randomized into either the control (C) group or the NAC group, which received 600 mg NAC PO dissolved in a glass of orange juice, 60 min before breathing 15 L/min of 100% normobaric oxygen. Orange juice was administered to both groups. Blood samples for EPO measurement were taken at T0, before the orange juice administration, and T1, T2, T3 and T4, respectively, 8, 24, 32 and 48 h after the orange juice. The EPO concentrations of the NAC group decreased significantly at T1, followed by a significant increase compared to baseline, which was obvious until T4. The EPO concentrations of the C group did not show any significant variations. In this study, a significant increase of EPO production was observed after a short-term hyperoxic stimulus only when preceded with the administration of a single dose of NAC.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology*
  • Adult
  • Erythropoietin / biosynthesis*
  • Erythropoietin / blood
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperoxia / blood
  • Hyperoxia / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Erythropoietin
  • Oxygen
  • Acetylcysteine