Differential effects of high-altitude exposure on markers of oxidative stress, antioxidant capacity, and iron profiles

Chantal L. Rytz, Matiram Pun, Jamie A. Mawhinney, Craig A. Mounsey, Mathlide Mura, Agnès Martin, Vincent Pialoux, Sara E. Hartmann, Michael Furian, Jean M. Rawling, Ivan Lopez, Daniel Soza, Fernando A. Moraga, Mona Lichtblau, Patrick R. Bader, Silvia Ulrich, Konrad E. Bloch, Matthew C. Frise, Marc J. Poulin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


High-altitude (HA) exposure may stimulate significant physiological and molecular changes, resulting in HA-related illnesses. HA may impact oxidative stress, antioxidant capacity, and iron homeostasis, yet it is unclear how both repeated exposure and HA acclimatization may modulate such effects. Therefore, we assessed the effects of weeklong repeated daily HA exposure (2,900–5,050 m) in altitude-naïve individuals (n = 21 individuals, 13 females, mean ± SD, 25.3 ± 3.7 yr) to mirror the working schedule of HA workers (n = 19 individuals, all males, 41.1 ± 9.4 yr) at the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory (San Pedro de Atacama, Chile). Markers of oxidative stress, antioxidant capacity, and iron homeostasis were measured in blood plasma. Levels of protein oxidation (P < 0.001) and catalase activity (P = 0.023) increased and serum iron (P < 0.001), serum ferritin (P < 0.001), and transferrin saturation (P < 0.001) levels decreased with HA exposure in both groups. HA workers had lower levels of oxidative stress, and higher levels of antioxidant capacity, iron supply, and hemoglobin concentration as compared with altitude-naïve individuals. On a second week of daily HA exposure, changes in levels of protein oxidation, glutathione peroxidase, and nitric oxide metabolites were lower as compared with the first week in altitude-naïve individuals. These results indicate that repeated exposure to HA may significantly alter oxidative stress and iron homeostasis, and the degree of such changes may be dependent on if HA is visited naïvely or routinely. Further studies are required to fully elucidate differences in HA-induced changes in oxidative stress and iron homeostasis profiles among visitors of HA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R445-R456
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • antioxidant capacity
  • high altitude
  • iron
  • iron supply
  • oxidative stress


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