Rationale: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been associated with a number of chronic disorders that may improve with effective therapy. However, the molecular pathways affected by continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment are largely unknown. We sought to assess the system-wide consequences of CPAP therapy by transcriptionally profiling peripheral blood leukocytes (PBLs).
Methods: Subjects in whom severe OSA was diagnosed were treated with CPAP, and whole-genome expression measurement of PBLs was performed at baseline and following therapy. We used gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) to identify pathways that were differentially enriched. Network analysis was then applied to highlight key drivers of processes influenced by CPAP.
Results: Eighteen subjects with significant OSA underwent CPAP therapy and microarray analysis of their PBLs. Treatment with CPAP improved apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), daytime sleepiness, and blood pressure, but did not affect anthropometric measures. GSEA revealed a number of enriched gene sets, many of which were involved in neoplastic processes and displayed downregulated expression patterns in response to CPAP. Network analysis identified several densely connected genes that are important modulators of cancer and tumor growth.
Conclusions: Effective therapy of OSA with CPAP is associated with alterations in circulating leukocyte gene expression. Functional enrichment and network analyses highlighted transcriptional suppression in cancer-related pathways, suggesting potentially novel mechanisms linking OSA with neoplastic signatures.
Keywords: Microarray; cancer; network; sleep apnea; white blood cell.