Arterial catecholamine responses during exercise with acute and chronic high-altitude exposure.
Exercise at high altitude is a stress that activates the sympathoadrenal systems, which could affect responses to acute altitude exposure and promote adaptations during chronic altitude exposure. However, catecholamine levels are not clearly described over time at high altitude. In seven male volunteers (23 yr, 72 kg), resting arterial norepinephrine concentrations (ng/ml) on arrival at Pikes Peak (0.338 +/- 0.041) decreased compared with sea-level values (0.525 +/- 0.034) but increased to above sea-level values after 21 days at 4,300 m (0.798 +/- 0.052). Furthermore, during 45 min of constant submaximal exercise, values were similar at sea level (1.670 +/- 0.221) and on acute exposure to 4,300 m (2.123 +/- 0.086) but increased after 21 days of chronic exposure (2.693 +/- 0.216). By contrast, resting arterial epinephrine values (ng/ml) during acute and chronic exposure (0.708 +/- 0.033 vs. 0.448 +/- 0.026) both exceeded those of sea level (0.356 +/- 0.020). During exercise values on arrival were greater than at sea level (0.921 +/- 0.024 vs. 0.397 +/- 0.035) but fell to 0.612 +/- 0.025 ng/ml after 21 days. Exercise norepinephrine levels were related to systemic vascular resistance measurements (r = 0.93), whereas epinephrine levels were related to circulating lactate (r = 0.95). We conclude that during exercise at altitude there is a dissociation between norepinephrine, an indicator of sympathetic neural activity, and epinephrine, an indicator of adrenal medullary response. These actions may account for different metabolic and physiological responses to acute vs. chronic altitude exposure.