Transcriptomic modifications in developmental cardiopulmonary adaptations to chronic hypoxia using a murine model of simulated high-altitude exposure

Sheila Krishnan, Robert Stearman, Lily Zeng, Amanda Fisher, Elizabeth A. Mickler, Brooke H. Rodriguez, Edward R. Simpson, Todd Cook, James E. Slaven, Mircea Ivan, Mark Geraci, Tim Lahm, Robert S. Tepper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Mechanisms driving adaptive developmental responses to chronic high-altitude (HA) exposure are incompletely known. We developed a novel rat model mimicking the human condition of cardiopulmonary adaptation to HA starting at conception and spanning the in utero and postnatal timeframe. We assessed lung growth and cardiopulmonary structure and function and performed transcriptome analyses to identify mechanisms facilitating developmental adaptations to chronic hypoxia. To generate the model, breeding pairs of Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to hypobaric hypoxia (equivalent to 9,000 ft elevation). Mating, pregnancy, and delivery occurred in hypoxic conditions. Six weeks postpartum, structural and functional data were collected in the offspring. RNA-Seq was performed on right ventricle (RV) and lung tissue. Age-matched breeding pairs and offspring under room air (RA) conditions served as controls. Hypoxic rats exhibited significantly lower body weights and higher hematocrit levels, alveolar volumes, pulmonary diffusion capacities, RV mass, and RV systolic pressure, as well as increased pulmonary artery remodeling. RNA-Seq analyses revealed multiple differentially expressed genes in lungs and RVs from hypoxic rats. Although there was considerable similarity between hypoxic lungs and RVs compared with RA controls, several upstream regulators unique to lung or RV were identified. We noted a pattern of immune downregulation and regulation patterns of immune and hormonal mediators similar to the genome from patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension. In summary, we developed a novel murine model of chronic hypoxia exposure that demonstrates functional and structural phenotypes similar to human adaptation. We identified transcriptomic alterations that suggest potential mechanisms for adaptation to chronic HA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L456-L470
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Lung cellular and molecular physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • high altitude
  • hypoxia
  • lung growth
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • RNA-Seq

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology

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