Comparative ventilatory strategies of acclimated rats and burrowing plateau pika (Ochotona curzoniae) in response to hypoxic-hypercapnia

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2015 Sep;187:103-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2015.05.004. Epub 2015 May 16.


The objective of this study was to compare the different ventilatory strategies that help in coping with hypoxic-hypercapnia environment among two species: use acclimated rats and plateau pikas (Ochotona curzoniae) that live in Tibetan plateaus, and have been well adjusted to high altitude. Arterial blood samples taken at 4100 m of elevation in acclimatized rats and adapted pikas revealed inter-species differences with lower hemoglobin and hematocrit and higher blood pH in pikas. A linear and significant increase in minute ventilation was observed in pikas, which help them to cope with hypoxic-hypercapnia. Pikas also displayed a high inspiratory drive and an invariant respiratory timing regardless of the conditions. Biochemical analysis revealed that N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA) receptor gene and nNOS gene are highly conserved between rats and pikas, however pikas have higher expression of NMDA receptors and nNOS compared to rats at the brainstem level. Taken together, these results suggest that pikas have developed a specific ventilatory pattern supported by a modification of the NMDA/NO ventilatory central pathways to survive in extreme conditions imposed on the Tibetan plateaus. These physiological adaptive strategies help in maintaining a better blood oxygenation despite high CO2 concentration in burrows at high altitude.

Keywords: Adaptation; Burrow; Hypercapnia; Hypoxia; Ventilation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Blood Gas Analysis
  • Hypercapnia / blood
  • Hypercapnia / physiopathology*
  • Hypoxia / blood
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Lagomorpha / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I / genetics
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I / metabolism
  • Plethysmography
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar / physiology*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / genetics
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Respiration*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I