Chemoreceptors and cardiovascular control in acute and chronic systemic hypoxia

J. M. Marshall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This review describes the ways in which the primary bradycardia and peripheral vasoconstriction evoked by selective stimulation of peripheral chemoreceptors can be modified by the secondary effects of a chemoreceptor- induced increase in ventilation. The evidence that strong stimulation of peripheral chemoreceptors can evoke the behavioural and cardiovascular components of the alerting or defence response which is characteristically evoked by novel or noxious stimuli is considered. The functional significance of all these influences in systemic hypoxia is then discussed with emphasis on the fact that these reflex changes can be overcome by the local effects of hypoxia: central neural hypoxia depresses ventilation, hypoxia acting on the heart causes bradycardia and local hypoxia of skeletal muscle and brain induces vasodilatation. Further, it is proposed that these local influences can become interdependent, so generating a positive feedback loop that may explain sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is also argued that a major contributor to these local influences is adenosine. The role of adenosine in determining the distribution of O2 in skeletal muscle microcirculation in hypoxia is discussed, together with its possible cellular mechanisms of action. Finally, evidence is presented that in chronic systemic hypoxia, the reflex vasoconstrictor influences of the sympathetic nervous system are reduced and/or the local dilator influences of hypoxia are enhanced. In vitro and in vivo findings suggest this is partly explained by upregulation of nitric oxide (NO) synthesis by the vascular endothelium which facilitates vasodilatation induced by adenosine and other NO-dependent dilators and attenuates noradrenaline-evoked vasoconstriction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)863-888
Number of pages26
JournalBrazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Adenosine
  • Chemoreceptors
  • Hypoxia
  • Noradrenaline
  • Vasodilatation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Cell Biology


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