Ventilatory responses to changes in temperature in mammals and other vertebrates

Annu Rev Physiol. 2000;62:847-74. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.62.1.847.


This article reviews the relationship between pulmonary ventilation (VE) and metabolic rate (oxygen consumption) during changes in ambient temperature. The main focus is on mammals, although for comparative purposes the VE responses of ectothermic vertebrates are also discussed. First, the effects of temperature on pulmonary mechanics, chemoreceptors, and airway receptors are summarized. Then we review the main VE responses to cold and warm stimuli and their interaction with exercise, hypoxia, or hypercapnia. In these cases, mammals attempt to maintain both oxygenation and body temperature, although conflicts can arise because of the respiratory heat loss associated with the increase in ventilation. Finally, we consider the VE responses of mammals when body temperature changes, as during torpor, fever, sleep, and hypothermia. In ectotherms, during changes in temperature, VE control becomes part of a general strategy to maintain constant relative alkalinity and ensure a constancy of pH-dependent protein functions (alphastat regulation). In mammals on the other hand, VE control is aimed to balance metabolic needs with homeothermy. Therefore, alphastat regulation in mammals seems to have a low priority, and it may be adopted only in exceptional cases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Temperature*
  • Vertebrates / physiology*