Measuring lung function in mice: the phenotyping uncertainty principle

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Apr;94(4):1297-306. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00706.2002.


Measuring lung function in mice is essential for establishing the relevance of murine models to human lung disease. However, making such measurements presents particular technical challenges due to the small size of the animal, particularly with regard to the measurement of respiratory flows. In this review, we examine the various methods currently available for assessment of lung function in mice and contrast them in terms of a concept we call the phenotyping uncertainty principle; each method can be considered to lie somewhere along a continuum on which noninvasiveness must be traded off against experimental control and measurement precision. Unrestrained plethysmography in conscious mice represents the extreme of noninvasiveness and is highly convenient but provides respiratory measures that are so tenuously linked to respiratory mechanics that they cannot be considered as meaningful indicators of lung function. At the other extreme, the measurement of input impedance in anesthetized, paralyzed, tracheostomized mice is precise and specific but requires that an animal be studied under conditions far from natural. In between these two extremes lie methods that sacrifice some precision for a reduction in the level of invasiveness, a promising example being the measurement of transfer impedance in conscious, restrained mice. No method is optimal in all regards; therefore, the appropriate technique to use depends on the application.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype
  • Plethysmography
  • Respiratory Function Tests*
  • Respiratory Mechanics