Oxygen-sensing neurons in the central nervous system

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

88 Scopus citations


This mini-review summarizes the present knowledge regarding central oxygen-chemosensitive sites with special emphasis on their function in regulating changes in cardiovascular and respiratory responses. These oxygen-chemosensitive sites are distributed throughout the brain stem from the thalamus to the medulla and may form an oxygen-chemosensitive network. The ultimate effect on respiratory or sympathetic activity presumably depends on the specific neural projections from each of these brain stem oxygen-sensitive regions as well as on the developmental age of the animal. Little is known regarding the cellular mechanisms involved in the chemotransduction process of the central oxygen sensors. The limited information available suggests some conservation of mechanisms used by other oxygen-sensing systems, e.g., carotid body glomus cells and pulmonary vascular smooth muscle cells. However, major gaps exist in our understanding of the specific ion channels and oxygen sensors required for transducing central hypoxia by these central oxygen-sensitive neurons. Adaptation of these central oxygen-sensitive neurons during chronic or intermittent hypoxia likely contributes to responses in both physiological conditions (ascent to high altitude, hypoxic conditioning) and clinical conditions (heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, hypoventilation syndromes). This review underscores the lack of knowledge about central oxygen chemosensors and highlights real opportunities for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-374
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


  • Brain
  • C sympathoexcitatory region
  • Caudal hypothalamus
  • Chemosensitivity
  • Heme oxygenase
  • Ion channels
  • Pre-Bötzinger complex


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