Sleep apnea is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and intermittent hypoxia (IH, 20 episodes/h of 5% O2-5% CO2 for 7 h/day) to mimic sleep apnea increases blood pressure and impairs hydrogen sulfide (H2S)-induced vasodilation in rats. The enzyme that produces H2S, cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE), is decreased in rat mesenteric artery endothelial cells (EC) following in vivo IH exposure. In silico analysis identified putative nuclear factor of activated T cell (NFAT) binding sites in the CSE promoter. Therefore, we hypothesized that IH exposure reduces Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]) activation of calcineurin/NFAT to lower CSE expression and impair vasodilation. In cultured rat aortic EC, inhibiting calcineurin with cyclosporine A reduced CSE mRNA, CSE protein, and luciferase activity driven by a full-length but not a truncated CSE promoter. In male rats exposed to sham or IH conditions for 2 wk, [Ca2+] in EC in small mesenteric arteries from IH rats was lower than in EC from sham rat arteries (Δfura 2 ratio of fluorescence at 340 to 380 nm from Ca2+ free: IH = 0.05 ± 0.02, sham = 0.17 ± 0.03, P < 0.05), and fewer EC were NFATc3 nuclear positive in IH rat arteries than in sham rat arteries (IH = 13 ± 3, sham = 59 ± 11%, P < 0.05). H2S production was also lower in mesenteric tissue from IH rats vs. sham rats. Endothelium-dependent vasodilation to acetylcholine (ACh) was lower in mesenteric arteries from IH rats than in arteries from sham rats, and inhibiting CSE with β-cyanoalanine diminished ACh-induced vasodilation in arteries from sham but not IH rats but did not affect dilation to the H2S donor NaHS. Thus, IH lowers EC [Ca2+], NFAT activity, CSE expression and activity, and H2S production while inhibiting NFAT activation lowers CSE expression. The observations that IH exposure decreases NFATc3 activation and CSE-dependent vasodilation support a role for NFAT in regulating endothelial H2S production.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study identifies the calcium-regulated transcription factor nuclear factor of activated T cells as a novel regulator of cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE). This pathway is basally active in mesenteric artery endothelial cells, but, after exposure to intermittent hypoxia to mimic sleep apnea, nuclear factor of activated T cells c3 nuclear translocation and CSE expression are decreased, concomitant with decreased CSE-dependent vasodilation.
- hydrogen sulfide
- mesenteric arteries
- sleep apnea
- nuclear factor of activated T cells c3
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