H2S production by reactive oxygen species in the carotid body triggers hypertension in a rodent model of sleep apnea

Sci Signal. 2016 Aug 16;9(441):ra80. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aaf3204.


Sleep apnea is a prevalent respiratory disease in which episodic cessation of breathing causes intermittent hypoxia. Patients with sleep apnea and rodents exposed to intermittent hypoxia exhibit hypertension. The carotid body senses changes in blood O2 concentrations, and an enhanced carotid body chemosensory reflex contributes to hypertension in sleep apnea patients. A rodent model of intermittent hypoxia that mimics blood O2 saturation profiles of patients with sleep apnea has shown that increased generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the carotid body enhances the chemosensory reflex and triggers hypertension. CO generated by heme oxygenase-2 (HO-2) induces a signaling pathway that inhibits hydrogen sulfide (H2S) production by cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE), leading to suppression of carotid body activity. We found that ROS inhibited CO generation by HO-2 in the carotid body and liver through a mechanism that required Cys(265) in the heme regulatory motif of heterologously expressed HO-2. We showed that ROS induced by intermittent hypoxia inhibited CO production and increased H2S concentrations in the carotid body, which stimulated its neural activity. In rodents, blockade of H2S synthesis by CSE, by either pharmacologic or genetic approaches, inhibited carotid body activation and hypertension induced by intermittent hypoxia. Thus, our results indicate that oxidant-induced inactivation of HO-2, which leads to increased CSE-dependent H2S production in the carotid body, is a critical trigger of hypertension in rodents exposed to intermittent hypoxia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carotid Body / metabolism*
  • Carotid Body / physiopathology
  • Cystathionine gamma-Lyase / genetics
  • Cystathionine gamma-Lyase / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing) / genetics
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing) / metabolism
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / metabolism*
  • Hypertension / genetics
  • Hypertension / metabolism*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / genetics
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing)
  • heme oxygenase-2
  • Cystathionine gamma-Lyase
  • Hydrogen Sulfide