Recent research suggests that high-altitude hypoxia may serve as a model for prolonged oxidative stress in healthy humans. In this study, we investigated the consequences of prolonged high-altitude hypoxia on the basal level of oxidative damage to nuclear DNA in muscle cells, a major oxygen-consuming tissue. Muscle biopsies from seven healthy humans were obtained at sea level and after 2 and 8 weeks of hypoxia at 4100 m.a.s.l. We found increased levels of strand breaks and endonuclease III-sensitive sites after 2 weeks of hypoxia, whereas oxidative DNA damage detected by formamidopyrimidine DNA glycosylase (FPG) protein was unaltered. The expression of 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase 1 (OGG1), determined by quantitative RT-PCR of mRNA levels did not significantly change during high-altitude hypoxia, although the data could not exclude a minor upregulation. The expression of heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) was unaltered by prolonged hypoxia, in accordance with the notion that HO-1 is an acute stress response protein. In conclusion, our data indicate high-altitude hypoxia may serve as a good model for oxidative stress and that antioxidant genes are not upregulated in muscle tissue by prolonged hypoxia despite increased generation of oxidative DNA damage.
Keywords: Adaptation, Physiological; Adult; Altitude Sickness; DNA Damage; DNA Repair; Female; Humans; Male; Muscle, Skeletal; Oxidative Stress; Time Factors