Intermittent hypoxia-induced cardiorespiratory long-term facilitation: A new role for microglia

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2016 Jun;226:30-8. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2016.03.012. Epub 2016 Mar 24.


Intermittent hypoxia induces plasticity in neural networks controlling breathing and cardiovascular function. Studies demonstrate that mechanisms causing cardiorespiratory plasticity rely on intracellular signalling pathways that are activated by specific neurotransmitters. Peptides such as serotonin, PACAP and orexin are well-known for their physiological significance in regulating the cardiorespiratory system. Their receptor counterparts are present in cardiorespiratory centres of the brainstem medulla and spinal cord. Microglial cells are also important players in inducing plasticity. The phenotype and function of microglial cells can change based on the physiological state of the central nervous system. Here, we propose that in the autonomic nuclei of the ventral brainstem the relationship between neurotransmitters and neurokines, neurons and microglia determines the overall neural function of the central cardiorespiratory system.

Keywords: Acute intermittent hypoxia; Microglia; Orexin; PACAP; Phrenic long-term facilitation; Sympathetic long-term facilitation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Respiration*