Exhaled nitric oxide in ethnically diverse high-altitude native populations: A comparative study

Sudipta Ghosh, Melisa Kiyamu, Paloma Contreras, Fabiola León-Velarde, Abigail Bigham, Tom D. Brutsaert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objectives: Andean and Tibetan high-altitude natives exhibit a high concentration of nitric oxide (NO) in the lungs, suggesting that NO plays an adaptive role in offsetting hypobaric hypoxia. We examined the exhaled NO concentration as well as partial pressure of several additional high-altitude native populations in order to examine the possibility that this putative adaptive trait, that is, high exhaled NO, is universal. Methods: We recruited two geographically diverse highland native populations, Tawang Monpa (TM), a Tibetan derived population in North-Eastern India (n = 95, sampled at an altitude of ~3,200 m), and Peruvian Quechua from the highland Andes (n = 412). The latter included three distinct subgroups defined as those residing at altitude (Q-HAR, n = 110, sampled at 4,338 m), those born and residing at sea-level (Q-BSL, n = 152), and those born at altitude but migrant to sea-level (Q-M, n = 150). In addition, we recruited a referent sample of lowland natives of European ancestry from Syracuse, New York. Fraction of exhaled NO concentrations were measured using a NIOX NIMO following the protocol of the manufacturer. Results: Partial pressure of exhaled nitric oxide (PENO) was significantly lower (p '.05) in both high-altitude resident groups (TM = 6.2 ± 0.5 nmHg and Q-HAR = 5.8 ± 0.5 nmHg), as compared to the groups measured at sea level (USA = 14.6 ± 0.7 nmHg, Q-BSL = 18.9 ± 1.6 nmHg, and Q-M = 19.2 ± 1.7 nmHg). PENO was not significantly different between TM and Q-HAR (p '.05). Conclusion: In contrast to previous work, we found lower PENO in populations at altitude (compared to sea-level) and no difference in PENO between Tibetan and Andean highland native populations. These results do not support the hypothesis that high nitric oxide in human lungs is a universal adaptive mechanism of highland native populations to offset hypobaric hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-458
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Andean Quechua
  • Tawang Monpa
  • exhaled nitric oxide
  • hypobaric hypoxia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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