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Effects of chronic intermittent hypoxia on genioglossus in rats

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The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) on genioglossal ultrastructure and mitochondrial function as well as the intervention role of adiponectin (Ad).


Forty-two Wistar rats were randomly divided into three groups with 14 rats in each. Rats in group A were kept breathing normal air, while rats in both groups B and C received the same CIH environment (a 2-min cycle, 1 min on, 1 min off with a nadir O2 at 4–5%, 8 h/day for successive 5 weeks). However, rats in group C was given regular intravenous Ad injection (10 μg per time, twice a week for successive 5 weeks). A simultaneous intravenous injection of saline (0.5 ml per time) was carried in groups A and B. At the end of experiment, the genioglossal ultrastructure, the serum adiponectin levels, the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm), and activities of respiratory chain complexes I and IV in mitochondrion of genioglossal cells were compared among groups.


Serum Ad level was significantly lower in group B than that in group A (P < 0.01). In group B, there were genioglussal myofibril discontinuities, lysis of myofilament, edema of mitochondria, and disruption of cristae, vacuolus, and lysis of some mitochondria. These pathological changes were less significant in group C. The relative value of ΔΨm was the lowest in group B but the highest in group A (P < 0.01), with group B in between. The concentrations of mitochondrial complexes I and IV in group B were the lowest but became higher and higher from group C to A, with a significant difference among groups (all P < 0.05).


CIH could lead to hypoadiponectinemia, impaired genioglossal ultrastructure, and mitochondrial dysfunction. These changes could be improved by supplement of Ad.

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This study was supported by Nantional Natural Scientific Funding of China (30971167).

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Correspondence to Xilong Zhang.

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Huang, H., Zhang, X., Ding, N. et al. Effects of chronic intermittent hypoxia on genioglossus in rats. Sleep Breath 16, 505–510 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11325-011-0532-y

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  • Intermittent hypoxia
  • Genioglossus
  • Obstructive sleep apnea–hypopnea syndrome
  • Ultrastructure
  • Mitochondria
  • Adiponectin