Responses of terrestrial insects to hypoxia or hyperoxia

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2006 Nov;154(1-2):4-17. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2006.02.008. Epub 2006 Mar 6.


Oxygen is critically important for catabolic ATP generation but is also a dangerous source of reactive oxygen species. Insects respond to short-term exposure to hypoxia or hyperoxia with compensatory changes in spiracular opening and ventilation that reduce variation in internal Po2. Below critical Po2 values (Pc), nitric oxide and hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-mediated pathways induce long-term responses such as compensatory tracheal growth, suppressed development, and acclimation of ventilation. Pc values are strongly affected by activity and ontogeny, due to changes in the ratio of tracheal conductance to metabolic rate. Although growth rates and development are suppressed by significant hypoxia in all species studied to date, adult body size is only affected in some species. Severe hyperoxia causes major oxidative stress and reduces survival, while moderate hyperoxia increases development times and body sizes in some species by unknown mechanisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Body Size / physiology
  • Hyperoxia / physiopathology*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Insecta
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Respiration


  • Oxygen