Prenatal development of respiratory chemoreceptors in endothermic vertebrates

Steven C. Hempleman, Jason Q. Pilarski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Respiratory chemoreceptors are neurons that detect PCO 2, PO 2, and/or pH in body fluids and provide sensory feedback for the control of breathing. They play a critical role in coupling pulmonary ventilation to metabolic demand in endothermic vertebrates. During birth in mammals and hatching in birds, the state change from placental or chorioallantoic gas exchange to pulmonary respiration makes acute demands on the neonatal lungs and ventilatory control system, including the respiratory chemoreceptors. Here we review the literature on prenatal development of carotid body chemoreceptors, central chemoreceptors, and airway chemoreceptors, with emphasis on the histology, histochemistry, and neurophysiology of chemosensory cells or their afferents, and their physiological genomics if known. In general, respiratory chemoreceptors develop prenatally and are functional but immature at birth or hatching. Each type of respiratory chemoreceptor has a unique prenatal developmental time course, and all studied to date require a period of postnatal maturation to express the full adult response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-162
Number of pages7
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 31 2011


  • Bird
  • Carotid
  • Central
  • Chemoreceptor
  • Embryo
  • Fetus
  • Intrapulmonary
  • Mammal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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