Long-term intermittent hypoxia elevates cobalt levels in the brain and injures white matter in adult mice

Sigrid Veasey, Jessica Lear, Yan Zhu, Judith B Grinspan, Dominic Hare, SiHe Wang, Dustin R Bunch, Philip Doble, Stephen Richard Robinson

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Exposure to the variable oxygenation patterns in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) causes oxidative stress within the brain. We hypothesized that this stress is associated with increased levels of redox-active metals and white matter injury. Design: Participants were randomly allocated to a control or experimental group (single independent variable). Setting: University animal house. Participants: Adult male C57BL/6J mice. Interventions: To model OSA, mice were exposed to long-term intermittent hypoxia (LTIH) for 10 hours/day for 8 weeks or sham intermittent hypoxia (SIH). Measurements and Results: Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry was used to quantitatively map the distribution of the trace elements cobalt, copper, iron, and zinc in forebrain sections. Control mice contained 62 - 7 ng cobalt/g wet weight, whereas LTIH mice contained 5600 - 600 ng cobalt/g wet weight (P <0.0001). Other elements were unchanged between conditions. Cobalt was concentrated within white matter regions of the brain, including the corpus callosum. Compared to that of control mice, the corpus callosum of LTIH mice had signifcantly more endoplasmic reticulum stress, fewer myelin-associated proteins, disorganized myelin sheaths, and more degenerated axon profles. Because cobalt is an essential component of vitamin B12, serum methylmalonic acid (MMA) levels were measured. LTIH mice had low MMA levels (P <0.0001), indicative of increased B12 activity. Conclusions: Long-term intermittent hypoxia increases brain cobalt, predominantly in the white matter. The increased cobalt is associated with endoplasmic reticulum stress, myelin loss, and axonal injury. Low plasma methylmalonic acid levels are associated with white matter injury in longterm intermittent hypoxia and possibly in obstructive sleep apnea.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1471 - 1481
Number of pages11
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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