A leak-free head-out plethysmography system to accurately assess lung function in mice

Stephanie Bruggink, Kyle Kentch, Jason Kronenfeld, Benjamin J. Renquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Mice are a valuable model for elegant studies of complex, system-dependent diseases, including pulmonary diseases. Current tools to assess lung function in mice are either terminal or lack accuracy. We set out to develop a low-cost, accurate, head-out variable-pressure plethysmography system to allow for repeated, nonterminal measurements of lung function in mice. Current head-out plethysmography systems are limited by air leaks that prevent accurate measures of volume and flow. We designed an inflatable cuff that encompasses the mouse’s neck preventing air leak. We wrote corresponding software to collect and analyze the data, remove movement artifacts, and automatically calibrate each dataset. This software calculates volume, inspiratory/expiratory time, breaths per minute, mid-expiratory flow, and end-inspiratory pause. To validate the use, we established that our plethysmography system accurately measured tidal breathing, the bronchoconstrictive response to methacholine, sex- and age-associated changes in breathing, and breathing changes associated with house dust mite sensitization. Our estimates of volume, flow, and timing of breaths are in line with published estimates, we observed dose-dependent decreases in volume and flow in response to methacholine (P < 0.05), increased lung volume, and decreased breathing rate with aging (P < 0.05), and that house dust mite sensitization decreased volume and flow (P < 0.05) while exacerbating the methacholine-induced increase in inspiratory time (P < 0.05). We describe an accurate, sensitive, low-cost, head-out plethysmography system that allows for longitudinal studies of pulmonary disease in mice. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We describe a low-cost, variable-pressure head-out plethysmography system that can be used to assess lung function in mice. A balloon cuff is inflated around the mouse’s neck to prevent air leak, allowing for accurate measurements of lung volume and air flow. Custom software facilitates system calibration, removes movement artifacts, and eases data analysis. The system was validated by measuring tidal breathing, responses to methacholine, and changes associated with house dust mite sensitization, sex, and aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-118
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • aging
  • bronchoconstriction
  • head-out plethysmography
  • lung function
  • mice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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