Systemic inflammation impairs respiratory chemoreflexes and plasticity

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2011 Sep 30;178(3):482-9. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2011.06.017. Epub 2011 Jun 25.


Many lung and central nervous system disorders require robust and appropriate physiological responses to assure adequate breathing. Factors undermining the efficacy of ventilatory control will diminish the ability to compensate for pathology, threatening life itself. Although most of these same disorders are associated with systemic and/or neuroinflammation, and inflammation affects neural function, we are only beginning to understand interactions between inflammation and any aspect of ventilatory control (e.g. sensory receptors, rhythm generation, chemoreflexes, plasticity). Here we review available evidence, and present limited new data suggesting that systemic (or neural) inflammation impairs two key elements of ventilatory control: chemoreflexes and respiratory motor (versus sensory) plasticity. Achieving an understanding of mechanisms whereby inflammation undermines ventilatory control is fundamental since inflammation may diminish the capacity for natural, compensatory responses during pathological states, and the ability to harness respiratory plasticity as a therapeutic strategy in the treatment of devastating breathing disorders, such as during cervical spinal injury or motor neuron disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / pathology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity* / physiology
  • Reflex* / physiology
  • Respiratory Mechanics* / physiology
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / pathology*
  • Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome / physiopathology*