Acute hypoxia regulates the activity of specific ion channels in a rapid and reversible manner. Such effects underlie appropriate cellular responses to hypoxia which are designed to initiate cardiorespiratory reflexes and contribute importantly to other tissue responses, all of which are designed to improve tissue O2 supply. These responses include excitation of chemoreceptors as well as pulmonary vasoconstriction and systemic vasodilatation. However, such responses may also contribute to the adverse responses to hypoxia, such as excitotoxicity in the central nervous system.\ud \ud Whilst numerous ion channel types are known to be modulated by acute hypoxia, the nature of the O2 sensor in most tissues remains to be identified. Prolonged (chronic) hypoxia regulates functional expression of ion channels, and so remodels excitability of various cell types. Whilst this may contribute to adaptive responses such as high-altitude acclimatization, such altered channel expression may also contribute to the onset of pathological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease. Indeed, evidence is emerging that production of pathological peptides associated with Alzheimer's disease is increased during prolonged hypoxia. Such effects may account for the known increased incidence of this disease in patients who have previously endured hypoxic episodes, such as congestive heart failure and stroke. Identification of the mechanisms coupling hypoxia to the increased production of these peptides is likely to be of therapeutic benefit
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