Breathing is a vital function generated and controlled by a brainstem neural network, which is able to adjust its function to fit different metabolic demands. For instance, the pre-Bötzinger complex (preBötC) can respond to low oxygen availability (hypoxia) by an initial increase in rhythm frequency followed by a decrease in respiratory efforts that leads to gasping generation. Gasping is essential for autoresuscitation, which has motivated studies of the cellular mechanisms involved in these processes. Hypoxia has different effects on enzymes that participate in the Krebs cycle. In particular, aconitase is downregulated, whereas isocitrate dehydrogenase is unaffected or upregulated under hypoxic conditions. We hypothesized that the application of isocitrate, the product of aconitase and the substrate of isocitrate dehydrogenase as well as an alternative metabolic substrate, might enhance breathing and render it more resistant to hypoxic insult. We tested the effects of isocitrate applied on brainstem slices containing the preBötC as well as its central effects in vivo using plethysmography. Our results show that isocitrate increases the frequency of fictive eupnea and fictive gasping produced by the preBötC in vitro. Moreover, isocitrate increases the amplitude of ventilation in vivo in normoxia, increases ventilation during gasping, and favors autoresuscitation when animals were subjected to asphyxiation. In conclusion, we have found that isocitrate improves ventilation under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions through a mechanism that involves the preBötC and possibly other respiratory neural networks. Thus, isocitrate would be useful to avoid the failure of gasping generation and autoresuscitation in pathological conditions. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.