Chronic Intermittent Hypoxia Increases Oxidative Stress and Impairs Spatial Memory in Male and Female Rats




Gardner, Jennifer J.
Mabry, Steve
Bradshaw, Jessica L.
Wilson, E. Nicole
Little, Joel
Goulopoulou, Styliani
Cunningham, Rebecca L.


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Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by complex phenotypes and increased long-term risk of neurodegenerative disease. The impact of OSA in women is unknown due to sex differences in clinical presentation contributing to underdiagnosis. Using chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) to model OSA in rodents, our previous studies have shown CIH exposure increases oxidative stress and inflammation in male rats. However, the impact of CIH in female rats remains unclear. The objective of this study was to assess sex differences in CIH-mediated oxidative stress and rodent behaviors associated with neurodegenerative disease. Young adult male and female Long Evans and Sprague Dawley rats were exposed to CIH or normoxia for 14-15 days. Spatial memory and fine and gross motor skills were assessed. Plasma oxidative stress was measured and neuronal expression in the dorsal hippocampus was quantified. Female rats exhibited better spatial memory than males with increased neuronal expression in the CA1 region of the hippocampus. In both males and females, CIH impaired spatial memory and increased circulating oxidative stress. Yet, CIH increased CA1 neuronal expression in female rats only. CIH did not impact gross or fine motor skills, regardless of sex. Our preliminary findings indicate CIH increases oxidative stress and impairs spatial memory in males and females, but the impact of CIH on hippocampal neurons and region-specific contributions to spatial memory may be sexually dimorphic.