Intermittent hypoxia (IH) is a hallmark manifestation of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a widespread disorder of breathing. This Review focuses on the role of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) in hypertension, type 2 diabetes (T2D), and cognitive decline in experimental models of IH patterned after O2 profiles seen in OSA. IH increases HIF-1α and decreases HIF-2α protein levels. Dysregulated HIFs increase reactive oxygen species (ROS) through HIF-1–dependent activation of pro-oxidant enzyme genes in addition to reduced transcription of antioxidant genes by HIF-2. ROS in turn activate chemoreflex and suppress baroreflex, thereby stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and causing hypertension. We also discuss how increased ROS generation by HIF-1 contributes to IH-induced insulin resistance and T2D as well as disrupted NMDA receptor signaling in the hippocampus, resulting in cognitive decline.
Nanduri R. Prabhakar, Ying-Jie Peng, Jayasri Nanduri