Hypobaric hypoxia (HH) during airline travel induces several (patho-) physiological reactions in the human body. Whereas severe hypoxia is investigated thoroughly, very little is known about effects of moderate or short-term hypoxia, e.g. during airline flights. The aim of the present study was to analyse changes in serum protein expression and activation of signalling cascades in human volunteers staying for 30 min in a simulated altitude equivalent to airline travel. After approval of the local ethics committee, 10 participants were exposed to moderate hypoxia (simulation of 2400 m or 8000 ft for 30 min) in a hypobaric pressure chamber. Before and after hypobaric hypoxia, serum was drawn, centrifuged, and analysed by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DIGE) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization followed by time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF). Biological functions of regulated proteins were identified using functional network analysis (GeneMania®, STRING®, and Perseus® software). In participants, oxygen saturation decreased from 98.1 ± 1.3% to 89.2 ± 1.8% during HH. Expression of 14 spots (i.e., 10 proteins: ALB, PGK1, APOE, GAPDH, C1QA, C1QB, CAT, CA1, F2, and CLU) was significantly altered. Bioinformatic analysis revealed an association of the altered proteins with the signalling cascades "regulation of haemostasis" (four proteins), "metabolism" (five proteins), and "leukocyte mediated immune response" (five proteins). Even though hypobaric hypoxia was short and moderate (comparable to an airliner flight), analysis of protein expression in human subjects revealed an association to immune response, protein metabolism, and haemostasis.
Keywords: airline; hypobaric hypoxia; immune response; pressure chamber.