Effect of age and weight on upper airway function in a mouse model

Mikhael Polotsky, Ahmed S. Elsayed-Ahmed, Luis Pichard, Ria A. Richardson, Philip L. Smith, Hartmut Schneider, Jason P. Kirkness, Vsevolod Polotsky, Alan R. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Defects in pharyngeal mechanical and neuromuscular control are required for the development of obstructive sleep apnea. Obesity and age are known sleep apnea risk factors, leading us to hypothesize that specific defects in upper airway neuromechanical control are associated with weight and age in a mouse model. In anesthetized, spontaneously breathing young and old wild-type C57BL/6J mice, genioglossus electromyographic activity (EMGGG) was monitored and upper airway pressure-flow dynamics were characterized during ramp decreases in nasal pressure (Pn, cmH2O). Specific body weights were targeted by controlling caloric intake. The passive critical pressure (Pcrit) was derived from pressureflow relationships during expiration. The Pn threshold at which inspiratory flow limitation (IFL) developed and tonic and phasic EMGGG activity during IFL were quantified to assess the phasic modulation of pharyngeal patency. The passive Pcrit increased progressively with increasing body weight and increased more in the old than young mice. Tonic EMGGG decreased and phasic EMGGG increased significantly with obesity. During ramp decreases in Pn, IFL developed at a higher (less negative) Pn threshold in the obese than lean mice, although the frequency of IFL decreased with age and weight. The findings suggest that weight imposes mechanical loads on the upper airway that are greater in the old than young mice. The susceptibility to upper airway obstruction increases with age and weight as tonic neuromuscular activity falls. IFL can elicit phasic responses in normal mice that mitigate or eliminate the obstruction altogether.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)696-703
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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