The human blood transcriptome exhibits time-of-day-dependent response to hypoxia: Lessons from the highest city in the world

Cell Rep. 2022 Aug 16;40(7):111213. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.111213.


High altitude exposes humans to hypobaric hypoxia, which induces various physiological and molecular changes. Recent studies point toward interaction between circadian rhythms and the hypoxic response, yet their human relevance is lacking. Here, we examine the effect of different high altitudes in conjunction with time of day on human whole-blood transcriptome upon an expedition to the highest city in the world, La Rinconada, Peru, which is 5,100 m above sea level. We find that high altitude vastly affects the blood transcriptome and, unexpectedly, does not necessarily follow a monotonic response to altitude elevation. Importantly, we observe daily variance in gene expression, especially immune-related genes, which is largely altitude dependent. Moreover, using a digital cytometry approach, we estimate relative changes in abundance of different cell types and find that the response of several immune cell types is time- and altitude dependent. Taken together, our data provide evidence for interaction between the transcriptional response to hypoxia and the time of day in humans.

Keywords: CIBERSORTx; CP: Molecular biology; circadian clocks; clock genes; daily rhythms; high altitude; humans; hypoxia; immune response; lowlanders; whole-blood transcriptomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia* / genetics
  • Transcriptome* / genetics