Freedivers hold their breath while diving, causing blood oxygen levels to decrease (hypoxia) while carbon dioxide increases (hypercapnia). Whereas blood gas changes are presumably involved in the progression of respiratory diseases, less is known about their effect on healthy individuals. Here we have used gene expression profiling to analyze elite athletes' immune and inflammatory responses to freediving. Blood was collected before, 1 and 3 h after a series of maximal dynamic and static apneas in a pool, and peripheral blood gene expression was mapped on genome-wide microarrays. Fractions of phenotypically distinct immune cells were computed by deconvolution of the gene expression data using Cibersort software. Changes in gene activity and associated biological pathways were determined using R and GeneGo software. The results indicated a temporary increase of neutrophil granulocytes, and a decrease of cytotoxic lymphocytes; CD8+ T cells and resting NK cells. Biological pathway associations indicated possible protective reactions: genes involved in anti-inflammatory responses to proresolving lipid mediators were upregulated, whereas central factors involved in granule-mediated lymphocyte cytotoxicity were downregulated. While it remains unresolved whether freediving alters the immune system's defensive function, these results provide new insight into leukocyte responses and the protection of homeostasis in healthy athletes.
- Transcriptome deconvolution
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