Obstructive sleep apnea and CPAP therapy alter distinct transcriptional programs in subcutaneous fat tissue

Sleep. 2020 Jun 15;43(6):zsz314. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsz314.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has been linked to dysregulated metabolic states, and treatment of sleep apnea may improve these conditions. Subcutaneous adipose tissue is a readily samplable fat depot that plays an important role in regulating metabolism. However, neither the pathophysiologic consequences of OSA nor the effects of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) in altering this compartment's molecular pathways are understood. This study aimed to systematically identify subcutaneous adipose tissue transcriptional programs modulated in OSA and in response to its effective treatment with CPAP. Two subject groups were investigated: Study Group 1 was comprised of 10 OSA and 8 controls; Study Group 2 included 24 individuals with OSA studied at baseline and following CPAP. For each subject, genome-wide gene expression measurement of subcutaneous fat was performed. Differentially activated pathways elicited by OSA (Group 1) and in response to its treatment (Group 2) were determined using network and Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA). In Group 2, treatment of OSA with CPAP improved apnea-hypopnea index, daytime sleepiness, and blood pressure, but not anthropometric measures. In Group 1, GSEA revealed many up-regulated gene sets in OSA subjects, most of which were involved in immuno-inflammatory (e.g. interferon-γ signaling), transcription, and metabolic processes such as adipogenesis. Unexpectedly, CPAP therapy in Group 2 subjects was also associated with up-regulation of several immune pathways as well as cholesterol biosynthesis. Collectively, our findings demonstrate that OSA alters distinct inflammatory and metabolic programs in subcutaneous fat, but these transcriptional signatures are not reversed with short-term effective therapy.

Keywords: CPAP; gene expression; microarray; pathway; sleep apnea; subcutaneous adipose.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
  • Disorders of Excessive Somnolence*
  • Humans
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / genetics
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive* / therapy
  • Subcutaneous Fat