Abnormal inspiratory depth in Phox2a haploinsufficient mice

Neuroscience. 2007 Mar 2;145(1):384-92. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2006.11.055. Epub 2007 Jan 9.


Mutations of genes encoding Phox2a or Phox2b transcription factors induce modifications of different brainstem neuronal networks. Such modifications are associated with defects in breathing behavior at birth. In particular, an abnormal breathing frequency is observed in Phox2a-/- mutant mice, resulting from abnormal development of the locus coeruleus (LC) nucleus. However, the role of Phox2a proteins in the establishment of respiratory neuronal pathways is unknown, largely because mutants die shortly after birth. In the present study, we examined the effects of a haploinsufficiency of the Phox2a gene. Phox2a heterozygotes survive and exhibit a significantly larger inspiratory volume both during normoxic breathing and in response to hypoxia and a delayed maturation of inspiratory duration compared to wild-type animals. This phenotype accompanied by an unaltered frequency is evident at birth and persists until at least postnatal day 10. Morphological analyses of Phox2a+/- animals revealed no anomaly in the LC region, but highlighted an increase in the number of cells expressing tyrosine hydroxylase enzyme, a marker of chemoafferent neurons, in the petrosal sensory ganglion. These data indicate that Phox2a plays a critical role in the ontogeny of the reflex control of inspiration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Hypoxia / genetics
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Locus Coeruleus / metabolism
  • Locus Coeruleus / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout / abnormalities*
  • Plethysmography / methods
  • Respiration Disorders / genetics*
  • Respiration Disorders / pathology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Phox2a protein, mouse
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase