Effects of an allosteric hemoglobin affinity modulator on arterial blood gases and cardiopulmonary responses during normoxic and hypoxic low-intensity exercise

Glenn M. Stewart, Steven Chase, Troy J. Cross, Courtney M. Wheatley-Guy, Michael Joyner, Timothy Curry, Josh Lehrer-Graiwer, Kobina Dufu, Nicholas E. Vlahakis, Bruce D. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous pathophysiological conditions induce hypoxemia-related cardiopulmonary perturbations, decrements in exercise capacity, and debilitating symptoms. Accordingly, this study investigated the efficacy of an allosteric hemoglobin modulator (voxelotor) to enhance arterial oxygen saturation during low-intensity exercise in hypoxia. Eight normal healthy subjects (36 ± 7 yr; 73.8 ± 9.5 kg; 3 women) completed a submaximal cycling test (60 W) under normoxic (FIO2: 0.21; O2 partial pressure: 144 mmHg) and hypoxic (FIO2: 0.125; O2 partial pressure: 82 mmHg) conditions before (day 1) and after (day 15) 14 days of oral drug administration. While stationary on a cycle ergometer and during exercise, ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and dyspnea, oxygen consumption (VO2), and cardiac output (Q) were measured noninvasively, while arterial blood pressure (MAP) and blood gases (SaO2, PaO2, and PaCO2) were measured invasively. The 14-day drug administration left shifted the oxygen-hemoglobin dissociation curve (ODC; p50 measured at standard pH and PCO2; day 1: 28.0 ± 2.1 mmHg vs. day 15: 26.1 ± 1.8 mmHg, P < 0.05). RPE, dyspnea, VO2, Q, and MAP were not different between day 1 and day 15. SaO2 was similar during normoxia on day 1 and day 15 while stationary but higher during exercise (day 1: 95.2 ± 0.4% vs. day 15: 96.6 ± 0.3%, P < 0.05). SaO2 was higher during hypoxia on day 15 while stationary (day 1: 82.9 ± 3.4% vs. day 15: 90.9 ± 1.8%, P < 0.05) and during exercise (day 1: 73.6 ± 2.5% vs. day 15: 84.8 ± 2.7%, P < 0.01). PaO2 and PaCO2 were systematically higher and lower, respectively, after drug (P < 0.01), while the alveolar-arterial oxygen difference was unchanged suggesting hyperventilation contributed to the rise in SaO2. Oral administration of voxelotor left shifted the ODC and stimulated a mild hyperventilation, leading to improved arterial oxygen saturation without altering VO2 and central hemodynamics during rest and low-intensity exercise. This effect was more pronounced during submaximal hypoxic exercise, when arterial desaturation was more evident. Additional studies are needed to determine the effects of voxelotor during maximal exercise and under chronic forms of hypoxia. NEW & NOTEWORTHY In humans, a novel allosteric hemoglobin-oxygen affinity modulator was administered to comprehensively examine the cardiopulmonary consequences of stabilizing a portion of the available hemoglobin in a high-oxygen affinity state during submaximal exercise in normoxia and hypoxia. Oral administration of voxelotor enhanced arterial oxygen saturation during submaximal exercise without altering oxygen consumption and central hemody-namics; however, the partial pressure of arterial carbon dioxide was reduced and the partial pressure of arterial oxygen was increased implying that hyperventilation also contributed to the increase in oxygen saturation. The preservation of arterial oxygen saturation and content was particularly evident during hypoxic submaximal exercise, when arterial desaturation typically occurs, but this did not influence arterial-venous oxygen difference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1467-1476
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2020


  • Arterial blood gases
  • Arterial oxygen saturation
  • GBT440
  • Hematology
  • Hypoxia
  • Oxygen affinity
  • Voxelotor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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