Hormone phase-dependency of neural responses to chemoreflex-driven sympatho-excitation in young women using hormonal contraceptives

Charlotte W. Usselman, Torri A. Luchyshyn, Tamara I. Gimon, Chantelle A. Nielson, Stan H. M. Van Uum, J. Kevin Shoemaker


Hormone fluctuations in women may influence muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) in a manner dependent on the severity of the sympatho-excitatory stimulus. This study examined MSNA patterns at rest and during chemoreflex stimulation in low- (LH) versus high-hormone (HH) phases of contraceptive use in healthy young women (n=7). We tested the hypothesis that MSNA would be greater in the HH phase at baseline and in response to chemoreflex stimulation. MSNA recordings were obtained through microneurography in LH and HH at baseline, during rebreathing causing progressive hypoxia and hypercapnia, and during a hypercapnic-hypoxic end-inspiratory apnea. Baseline MSNA burst incidence (P=0.03) and burst frequency (P=0.02) were greater in the HH phase, while MSNA burst amplitude distributions and hemodynamic measures were similar between phases. Rebreathing elicited increases in all MSNA characteristics from baseline (P<0.05) but was not associated with hormone phase-dependent changes to MSNA patterns. Apnea data was considered in two halves, both of which caused large increases in all MSNA variables from baseline in each hormone phase (P<0.01). Increases in burst incidence and frequency were greater in LH during the first half of the apnea (P=0.03 and P=0.02, respectively) while increases in burst amplitude and total MSNA were greater in LH during the second half of the apnea (P<0.05). These results indicate that change in hormone phase brought on through use of hormonal contraceptives influences MSNA patterns such that baseline MSNA is greater in the HH phase but responses to severe chemoreflex stimulation are greater in the LH phase.

  • muscle sympathetic nerve activity
  • chemoreflex
  • women
  • contraceptives