Role of the Gut Microbiome in Obstructive Sleep Apnea-Induced Hypertension

Hypertension. 2016 Feb;67(2):469-74. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.115.06672. Epub 2015 Dec 28.


Individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are at increased risk for systemic hypertension. The importance of a healthy gut microbiota, and detriment of a dysbiotic microbiota, on host physiology is becoming increasingly evident. We tested the hypothesis that gut dysbiosis contributes to hypertension observed with OSA. OSA was modeled in rats by inflating a tracheal balloon during the sleep cycle (10-s inflations, 60 per hour). On normal chow diet, OSA had no effect on blood pressure; however, in rats fed a high-fat diet, blood pressure increased 24 and 29 mm Hg after 7 and 14 days of OSA, respectively (P<0.05 each). Bacterial community characterization was performed on fecal pellets isolated before and after 14 days of OSA in chow and high-fat fed rats. High-fat diet and OSA led to significant alterations of the gut microbiota, including decreases in bacterial taxa known to produce the short chain fatty acid butyrate (P<0.05). Finally, transplant of dysbiotic cecal contents from hypertensive OSA rats on high-fat diet into OSA recipient rats on normal chow diet (shown to be normotensive) resulted in hypertension similar to that of the donor (increased 14 and 32 mm Hg after 7 and 14 days of OSA, respectively; P<0.05). These studies demonstrate a causal relationship between gut dysbiosis and hypertension, and suggest that manipulation of the microbiota may be a viable treatment for OSA-induced, and possibly other forms of, hypertension.

Keywords: butyrates; dysbiosis; hypertension; microbiota; obstructive sleep apnea.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dysbiosis / complications*
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Hypertension / etiology*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / microbiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology