Public Release: 

Study pinpoints link between sleep apnea, high blood pressure

University of Louisville

A changing protein expression in the kidney offers new insight into the link between sleep apnea and high blood pressure.

Sleep apnea, a disorder associated with snoring, causes short interruptions of breathing and intermittent drops in oxygen levels. It is often associated with high blood pressure, a condition that contributes to heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.

Although scientists have known for more than a decade that sleep apnea and high blood pressure are related, they have been unable to pinpoint the connection.

Researchers at the University of Louisville approached the problem through a new field of research called proteomics that examines how proteins change the functions of cells, tissues and organs. In a yearlong study of laboratory rats, they found that changes in the expression of proteins regulating a potent natural vasodilator in the kidney mirrored changes in blood pressure of the kidney.

The process appears to play a significant role in the development of high blood pressure during bouts of sleep apnea, concluded researchers Jon Klein and David Gozal.

"This project shows how useful proteomics can be in discovering complex changes in proteins that lead to disease," Klein said. He and his colleagues are preparing to look at the changes in humans to see if they might lead to new therapies for high blood pressure.

The study, which appears on the Journal of Biological Chemistry's website at, is scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Klein, a kidney specialist, directs the Core Proteomics Laboratory at the University of Louisville's School of Medicine. Gozal, a pediatric pulmonologist and respiratory-sleep physiologist, directs a 12-lab unit at U of L where researchers study the relationship between intellectual performance and disordered sleep in children.


Also taking part in the study were the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin-Buch, Germany; the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C., and the Escola de Medicina in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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