Expression of c-fos in the rat brainstem after exposure to hypoxia and to normoxic and hyperoxic hypercapnia

J Comp Neurol. 1997 Nov 17;388(2):169-90. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9861(19971117)388:2<169::aid-cne1>;2-#.


In this study, Fos immunohistochemistry was used to map brainstem neuronal pathways activated during hypercapnia and hypoxia. Conscious rats were exposed to six different gas mixtures: (a) air; (b) 8% CO2 in air; (c) 10% CO2 in air; (d) 15% CO2 in air; (e) 15% CO2 + 60% O2, balance N2; (f) 9% O2, balance N2. Double-staining was performed to show the presence of tyrosine hydroxylase. Hypercapnia, in a dose-dependent way caused Fos expression in the following areas: caudal nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), with few labeled A2 noradrenergic neurons; noradrenergic A1 cells and noncatecholaminergic neurons in the caudal ventrolateral medulla; raphe magnus and gigantocellular nucleus pars alpha (GiA); many noncatecholaminergic (and relatively few C1) neurons in the lateral paragigantocellular nucleus (PGCl), and in the retrotrapezoid nucleus (RTN); locus coeruleus (LC), external lateral parabrachial and Kölliker-Fuse nuclei, and A5 noradrenergic neurons at pontine level; and in caudal mesencephalon, the ventrolateral column of the periaqueductal gray (vlPAG). In most of these nuclei, hypoxia also induced Fos expression, albeit generally less than after hypercapnia. However, hypoxia did not cause labeling in RTN, juxtafacial PGCl, GiA, LC, or vlPAG. After normoxic hypercapnia, more labeled cells were present in NTS and PGCl than after hyperoxic hypercapnia. Part of the observed labeling could be caused by stress- or cardiovascular-related sequelae of hypoxia and hypercapnia. Possible implications for the neural control of breathing are also discussed, particularly with regard to the finding that several nuclei, not belonging to the classical brainstem respiratory centres, contained labeled cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / enzymology
  • Brain Stem / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genes, fos*
  • Hypercapnia / genetics
  • Hypercapnia / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia / genetics
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Medulla Oblongata / enzymology
  • Medulla Oblongata / metabolism
  • Mesencephalon / enzymology
  • Mesencephalon / metabolism
  • Pons / enzymology
  • Pons / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / biosynthesis*
  • Rats
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase