The reflex ventilatory responses of conscious, newborn rats to alternations of inspiratory oxygen concentration

P Kumar, T Thomas, B K Elnazir

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We examined the effect of a dynamic, hypoxic stimulus upon the reflex respiratory responses of 15, conscious rat pups on post-natal days 5-7 in order to ascertain the influence of a non-adapting peripheral chemoreceptor discharge upon respiratory control during hypoxia in the newborn. Respiration was measured as integrated airflow into and out of a body plethysmograph. The respiratory response to 6 minutes of a 16-breath cycle (approximately 5 s) in FiO2 between 0.21 and 0.10 (alternating hypoxia) was compared with the response to 6 min of a constant FiO2 of 0.12 (non-alternating hypoxia). Ventilation increased significantly from a control level of 0.12 +/- 0.02 ml/s (mean +/- SEM) to 0.18 +/- 0.02 and 0.17 +/- 0.02 ml/s in non-alternating and alternating hypoxia runs respectively during the first minute (phase 1) of each run, after which ventilation in both run types fell progressively and significantly back towards control levels to reach, by the sixth minute (phase 2), 0.13 +/- 0.01 and 0.12 +/- 0.02 ml/s respectively. No significant difference was found between the levels of ventilation in non-alternating hypoxia and alternating hypoxia during either phase 1 (P greater than 0.10) or phase 2 (P greater than 0.60). No significant alternation was found in any respiratory variable at the frequency of the 16-breath hypoxic cycle during either phase 1 or phase 2 of non-alternating hypoxia. However, a significant alternation, at this frequency, of 37 +/- 6% (P less than 0.05 compared to control) was found in ventilation during phase 1 of alternating hypoxia which was further increased to 62 +/- 8% (P less than 0.05 compared to phase 1) during phase 2. In phase 1 the alternation was due primarily to significant alternation in inspiratory time whilst in phase 2 significant alternation also occurred in tidal volume, expiratory time and mean inspiratory flow. Our results show that the magnitude of hypoxic ventilatory depression (HVD) in the newborn is not affected by an alternating hypoxic stimulus and that, during phase 2, ventilation can still be stimulated by peripheral chemoreceptors. We suggest that peripheral chemoreceptor adaptation is unlikely to be a major cause of HVD in the newborn rat and that the magnitude of HVD is, in part, the result of a competitive interaction between peripheral chemoreceptor stimulation and a centrally-mediated inhibitory action of hypoxia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-18
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Developmental Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1992


  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Anoxia
  • Chemoreceptor Cells
  • Female
  • Male
  • Oxygen
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Reflex
  • Respiration


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