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Ventilatory acclimatization to hypoxia (VAH) consists of a progressive increase in ventilation and decrease in end-tidal Pco(2) (Pet(CO(2))). Underlying VAH, there are also increases in the acute ventilatory sensitivities to hypoxia and hypercapnia. To investigate whether these changes could be induced with very mild alterations in end-tidal Po(2) (Pet(O(2))), two 5-day exposures were compared: 1) mild hypoxia, with Pet(O(2)) held at 10 Torr below the subject's normal value; and 2) mild hyperoxia, with Pet(O(2)) held at 10 Torr above the subject's normal value. During both exposures, Pet(CO(2)) was uncontrolled. For each exposure, the entire protocol required measurements on 13 consecutive mornings: 3 mornings before the hypoxic or hyperoxic exposure, 5 mornings during the exposure, and 5 mornings postexposure. After the subjects breathed room air for at least 30 min, measurements were made of Pet(CO(2)), Pet(O(2)), and the acute ventilatory sensitivities to hypoxia and hypercapnia. Ten subjects completed both protocols. There was a significant increase in the acute ventilatory sensitivity to hypoxia (Gp) after exposure to mild hypoxia, and a significant decrease in Gp after exposure to mild hyperoxia (P < 0.05, repeated-measures ANOVA). No other variables were affected by mild hypoxia or hyperoxia. The results, when combined with those from other studies, suggest that Gp varies linearly with Pet(O(2)), with a sensitivity of 3.5%/Torr (SE 1.0). This sensitivity is sufficient to suggest that Gp is continuously varying in response to normal physiological fluctuations in Pet(O(2)). We conclude that at least some of the mechanisms underlying VAH may have a physiological role at sea level.

Original publication




Journal article


J Appl Physiol (1985)

Publication Date





1587 - 1591


Acclimatization, Adult, Blood Gas Analysis, Carbon Dioxide, Female, Humans, Male, Oxygen, Oxygen Consumption, Pulmonary Ventilation