a1 Equine Science Center, Department of Animal Sciences, Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey, 84 Lipman Drive, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8525, USA
a2 Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA 91768, USA
a3 Department of Kinesiology, California State University, Fullerton, CA 92832, USA
a4 Departments of Kinesiology, Anatomy and Physiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
To help resolve the mechanistic bases for haematological adaptations (~28% increase in red blood cell volume) of equids to high altitude (3800 m, barometric pressure Pb, 487 mm Hg) and exercise, plasma erythropoietin concentration ([EPO]) was measured at rest and following exercise in six, moderately fit equids (four Arabians, one Quarter Horse and one Shetland Pony; four females and two males; age 9.0 ± 4.5 years (mean ± SD)). [EPO] was measured on 2 days at 225 m (i.e. ~sea level; Pb, 743 mm Hg), over the course of a 10-day altitude exposure, and then again for 2 days after return to sea level. A standard track exercise test (submaximal, speed set-to-heart rate of 110 (trot), 150 (canter), 180 (gallop) bpm) was performed 2 days pre-high-altitude exposure and on three separate days at high altitude. In addition, a maximal incremental exercise test was performed on a high-speed motor-driven treadmill at sea level and 2 days following return to sea level from high altitude. Resting [EPO] increased from 28 ± 29 at sea level to 144 ± 46 mU ml− 1 (P < 0.05) on the first day at high altitude. By day 2 at high altitude, [EPO] had returned to baseline (31 ± 24 mU ml− 1, P>0.05 vs. pre-high altitude) and did not change over the remaining 8 days at high altitude nor over the 2 days after return to sea level. [EPO] was not significantly altered by acute exercise at sea level or at 3800 m. These results indicate that [EPO] increases rapidly (though transiently) in response to hypobaric hypoxia but not to acute exercise, and that exercise does not appear to potentiate the altitude response. Thus, if any [EPO]-derived haematological adaptations to high altitude are present, these appear to result from a transient ~4-fold elevation of [EPO] rather than any sustained increase in this signalling mechanism, at least in the equid.
(Received January 18 2011)
(Accepted May 13 2011)
(Online publication July 05 2011)