Ventilatory responses to hypoxia and hypercapnia were measured by indirect plethysmography in unanesthetized unrestrained adult rats injected neonatally with capsaicin (50 mg/kg) or vehicle. Such capsaicin treatment ablates a subpopulation of primary afferent fibers containing substance P and various other neuropeptides. Ventilation was measured while the rats breathed air, 12% O2 in N2, 8% O2 in N2, 5% CO2 in O2, or 8% CO2 in O2. Neonatal treatment with capsaicin caused marked alterations in both the magnitude and composition of the hypoxic but not hypercapnic ventilatory response. The increase in minute ventilation evoked by hypoxia in the vehicle-treated rats resulted entirely from an increase in respiratory frequency. In the capsaicin-treated rats the hypoxic ventilatory response was significantly reduced owing to an attenuation of the frequency response. Although both groups responded to hypoxia with a shortening in inspiratory and expiratory times, rats treated with capsaicin displayed less shortening of both respiratory phases. By contrast, hypercapnia induced a brisk ventilatory response in the capsaicin-treated group that was similar in magnitude and pattern to that observed in the vehicle-treated group. Analysis of the components of the hypercapnic ventilatory responses revealed no significant differences between the two groups. We, therefore, conclude that neuropeptide-containing C-fibers are essential for the tachypnic component of the ventilatory response to hypoxia but not hypercapnia.
- Copyright © 1991 the American Physiological Society