Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) results in systemic intermittent hypoxia. By one model, hypoxic stress signaling in OSA patients alters the levels of inflammatory soluble cytokines TNF and IL6, damages the blood brain barrier, and activates microglial targeting of neuronal cell death to increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases. However, it is not yet clear if OSA significantly alters the levels of the soluble isoforms of TNF receptors TNFR1 and TNFR2 and IL6 receptor (IL6R) and co-receptor gp130, which have the potential to modulate TNF and IL6 signaling.
Picogram per milliliter levels of the soluble isoforms of these four cytokine receptors were estimated in OSA patients, in OSA patients receiving airways therapy, and in healthy control subjects. Triplicate samples were examined using Bio-Plex fluorescent bead microfluidic technology. The statistical significance of cytokine data was estimated using the nonparametric Wilcoxon rank-sum test. The clustering of these high-dimensional data was visualized using t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding (t-SNE).
OSA patients had significant twofold to sevenfold reductions in the soluble serum isoforms of all four cytokine receptors, gp130, IL6R, TNFR1, and TNFR2, as compared with control individuals (p = 1.8 × 10 to 4 × 10). Relative to untreated OSA patients, airways therapy of OSA patients had significantly higher levels of gp130 (p = 2.8 × 10), IL6R (p = 1.1 × 10), TNFR1 (p = 2.5 × 10), and TNFR2 (p = 5.7 × 10), levels indistinguishable from controls (p = 0.29 to 0.95). The data for most airway-treated patients clustered with healthy controls, but the data for a few airway-treated patients clustered with apneic patients.
Patients with OSA have aberrantly low levels of four soluble cytokine receptors associated with neurodegenerative disease, gp130, IL6R, TNFR1, and TNFR2. Most OSA patients receiving airways therapy have receptor levels indistinguishable from healthy controls, suggesting a chronic intermittent hypoxia may be one of the factors contributing to low receptor levels in untreated OSA patients.