An overview of the anatomy and physiology of slowly adapting pulmonary stretch receptors

Respir Physiol. 2001 Mar;125(1-2):17-31. doi: 10.1016/s0034-5687(00)00202-4.


Since the original work of by Hering and Breuer in 1868 numerous studies have demonstrated that slowly adapting pulmonary stretch receptors (SARs) are the lung vagal afferents responsible for eliciting the reflexes evoked by moderate lung inflation. SARs play a role in controlling breathing pattern, airway smooth muscle tone, systemic vascular resistance and heart rate. Both anatomical and physiological studies support the contention that SARs, by their close association with airway smooth muscle, continuously sense the tension within the myoelastic components of the airways caused by lung inflation, smooth muscle contraction and/or tethering of small intrapulmonary airways to the lung parenchyma. In addition, intrapulmonary SAR discharge activity is sensitive to changes in P(CO2) within the physiological range. Despite this extensive characterization of SARs, their role in determining breathing pattern and airway tone in individuals with respiratory diseases is only recently being appreciated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Stretch Receptors / anatomy & histology*
  • Pulmonary Stretch Receptors / physiology*