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[Gofriends] Mistake in GO structure?

Wacek Kusnierczyk waku at
Mon Jan 17 07:23:50 PST 2011

On 1/17/11 7:12 AM, David Hill wrote:
>> respiration is not necessarily breathing.  cellular respiration is not. 
> Yes. This is why we made the gaseous exchange term. We wanted to 
> clearly distinguish cellular respiration from the physiological 
> process of breathing.

The reason you made it 'gaseous exchange' rather than 'respiration' 
seems to be the fear of having nodes (terms) with like names (labels).  
So you have:

     'cellular respiration', which has the broad synonym 'respiration';
     'respiratory gaseous exchange', which has the broad synonym 

These are the only two terms in the GO that have 'respiration' as a 
(broad) synonym.  The reason obviously is that people use 'respiration' 
to mean one or the other, so you need to acknowledge it, but at the same 
time do the trick of not giving one and the same name to two different 

>> however, i must admit that the subsumption of respiratory system 
>> process by respiratory gaseous exchange is rather suspicious.  for 
>> example, inhaling air into lung seems to be a respiratory system 
>> process, but calling it respiratory gaseous exchange just doesn't 
>> sound right. 
> It is at the level of the organism. We breath in to take oxygen onto 
> our bodies and we breath out to rid out bodies of carbon dioxide.

Breathing is inhaling and exhaling air (or whatever happens to be around 
us) into the lungs.  In the lungs, oxygen diffuses into the blood, and 
carbon dioxide diffuses from the blood.  The circulatory system then 
takes the oxygen to other tissues, and brings a new portion of carbon 
dioxide from the tissues, while the respiratory system takes care of the 
waste and brings new oxygen for the next cycle.

Breathing is a respiratory system process.  Now,

(a) If the whole process of removing co2 from the blood and replacing it 
with o2 is called 'respiratory gaseous exchange' (or 'respiration' for 
short, as your broad synonym acknowledges), then breathing is a *part* 
of it; saying that breathing *is* respiratory gaseous exchange is 
plainly wrong.

(b) On the other hand, if the term 'gaseous exchange' (or 'gas 
exchange', as I find it in my textbooks) is used as it seems in medical 
terminology to name the process by which oxygen and carbon dioxide 
diffuse through alveolar cells, base membranes, and capillary 
endothelial cells in the lungs, then breathing is *separate* from 
respiratory gas exchange, and both *are* respiratory system processes 
and are *parts* of respiration.

Either way, GO has it wrong.  Just look at the 'definition' (sneer 
quotes intended) of 'respiratory gaseous exchange':

The process of gaseous exchange between an organism and its environment. 
In plants, microorganisms, and many small animals, air or water makes 
direct contact with the organism's cells or tissue fluids, and the 
processes of diffusion supply the organism with dioxygen (O2) and remove 
carbon dioxide (CO2). In larger animals the efficiency of gaseous 
exchange is improved by specialized respiratory organs, such as lungs 
and gills, which are ventilated by breathing mechanisms.

This 'definition' says, among others, two things:

(a) gaseous exchange is gaseous exchange;
(b) in larger animals (that is?) gaseous exchange is improved by 
respiratory organs, which a re ventilated by breathing mechanisms.

 From (a), it seems that the author wasn't able to give a clear 
explanation of what precisely is meant by 'gaseous exchange'.  From (b), 
it seems that ventilation by breathing improves gas exchange, from which 
it is very hard to me to draw the conclusion that breathing *is* 
respiratory gas exchange.

Should this matter in anyway, I remain convinced that the GO is confused 


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