Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by nocturnal breathing intermissions resulting in oxidative stress and eventually, a low-grade systemic inflammation. The study aimed to investigate the impact of positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy on the inflammatory milieu as measured by monocyte and T cell phenotypic alterations. Participants were assessed for their OSA severity before PAP therapy and about six months later, including patient-reported outcome and therapy usage by telemetry readout. The distributions of the CD14/CD16-characterized monocyte subsets as well as the CD4/CD8-characterized effector T cell subsets with regard to their PD-1 and PD-L1 expression were analyzed by flow cytometry from blood samples. Data of 25 patients revealed a significant reconstitution of the monocyte subset distribution and a decrease in PD-L1 expression on pan-monocytes and CD8+ T cells without an association to initial AHI and overweight. The PD-1 expression was still increased on T cell subsets, especially on CD4+ TH17/22 cells. We conclude that PAP therapy might have a rapid effect on the monocyte phenotype and overall PD-L1 expression levels. However, T cell immune alterations especially on TH17/22 cells persist longer, indicating an ongoing disturbance of the adaptive immune system.
Keywords: PAP therapy; PD-1/PD-L1; monocyte subsets; obstructive sleep apnea.