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Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research

On-line version ISSN 1414-431X


TAKAKURA, A.C. et al. Central chemoreceptors and neural mechanisms of cardiorespiratory control. Braz J Med Biol Res [online]. 2011, vol.44, n.9, pp.883-889.  Epub July 29, 2011 ISSN 1414-431X.

The arterial partial pressure (PCO2) of carbon dioxide is virtually constant because of the close match between the metabolic production of this gas and its excretion via breathing. Blood gas homeostasis does not rely solely on changes in lung ventilation, but also to a considerable extent on circulatory adjustments that regulate the transport of CO2 from its sites of production to the lungs. The neural mechanisms that coordinate circulatory and ventilatory changes to achieve blood gas homeostasis are the subject of this review. Emphasis will be placed on the control of sympathetic outflow by central chemoreceptors. High levels of CO2 exert an excitatory effect on sympathetic outflow that is mediated by specialized chemoreceptors such as the neurons located in the retrotrapezoid region. In addition, high CO2 causes an aversive awareness in conscious animals, activating wake-promoting pathways such as the noradrenergic neurons. These neuronal groups, which may also be directly activated by brain acidification, have projections that contribute to the CO2-induced rise in breathing and sympathetic outflow. However, since the level of activity of the retrotrapezoid nucleus is regulated by converging inputs from wake-promoting systems, behavior-specific inputs from higher centers and by chemical drive, the main focus of the present manuscript is to review the contribution of central chemoreceptors to the control of autonomic and respiratory mechanisms.

Keywords : Chemoreflex; Cardiorespiratory responses; Ventrolateral medulla; Sympathetic nerve activity; Phrenic nerve activity.

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