Integrative physiological and computational approaches to understand autonomic control of cerebral autoregulation
The brain requires steady delivery of oxygen and glucose, without which neurodegeneration occurs within minutes. Thus, the ability of the cerebral vasculature to maintain relatively steady blood flow in the face of changing systemic pressure, i.e. cerebral autoregulation, is critical to neurophysiological health. Although the study of autoregulation dates to the early 20th century, only the recent availability of cerebral blood flow measures with high temporal resolution has allowed rapid, beat-by-beat measurements to explore the characteristics and mechanisms of autoregulation. These explorations have been further enhanced by the ability to apply sophisticated computational approaches that exploit the large amounts of data that can be acquired. These advances have led to unique insights. For example, recent studies have revealed characteristic time scales wherein cerebral autoregulation is most active, as well as specific regions wherein autonomic mechanisms are prepotent. However, given that effective cerebral autoregulation against pressure fluctuations results in relatively unchanging flow despite changing pressure, estimating the pressure–flow relationship can be limited by the error inherent in computational models of autoregulatory function. This review focuses on the autonomic neural control of the cerebral vasculature in health and disease from an integrative physiological perspective. It also provides a critical overview of the current analytical approaches to understand cerebral autoregulation.
This lecture is about the history of the purinergic signalling concept. It begins with reference to the paper by Paton & Vane published in 1963, which identified non-cholinergic relaxation in response to vagal nerve stimulation in several species, although they suggested that it might be due to sympathetic adrenergic nerves in the vagal nerve trunk. Using the sucrose gap technique for simultaneous mechanical and electrical recordings in smooth muscle (developed while in Feldberg's department in the National Institute for Medical Research) of the guinea-pig taenia coli preparation (learned when working in Edith Bülbring's smooth muscle laboratory in Oxford Pharmacology), we showed that the hyperpolarizations recorded in the presence of antagonists to the classical autonomic neurotransmitters, acetylcholine and noradrenaline, were inhibitory junction potentials in response to non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic neurotransmission, mediated by intrinsic enteric nerves controlled by vagal and sacral parasympathetic nerves. We then showed that ATP satisfied the criteria needed to identify a neurotransmitter released by these nerves. Subsequently, it was shown that ATP is a cotransmitter in all nerves in the peripheral and central nervous systems. The receptors for purines and pyrimidines were cloned and characterized in the early 1990s, and immunostaining showed that most non-neuronal cells as well as nerve cells expressed these receptors. The physiology and pathophysiology of purinergic signalling is discussed.
Voltage-gated sodium channels initiate action potentials in nerve, muscle and other excitable cells. Early physiological studies described sodium selectivity, voltage-dependent activation and fast inactivation, and developed conceptual models for sodium channel function. This review article follows the topics of my 2013 Sharpey-Schafer Prize Lecture and gives an overview of research using a combination of biochemical, molecular biological, physiological and structural biological approaches that have elucidated the structure and function of sodium channels at the atomic level. Structural models for voltage-dependent activation, sodium selectivity and conductance, drug block and both fast and slow inactivation are discussed. A perspective for the future envisions new advances in understanding the structural basis for sodium channel function and the opportunity for structure-based discovery of novel therapeutics.
Neuropeptides and regulatory peptide hormones control many developmental, physiological and behavioural processes in animals, including humans. The nonapeptides oxytocin and arginine vasopressin are produced and released by the pituitary gland and have actions on many organs and tissues. Receptive cells possess particular receptors to which the peptides bind as ligands, leading to activation of G-protein-coupled receptors, hence cellular responses. In humans and other mammalian species, oxytocin and vasopressin mediate a range of peripheral and central physiological functions that are important for osmoregulation, reproduction, complex social behaviours, memory and learning. The origin of the oxytocin/vasopressin signalling system is thought to date back more than 600 million years. All vertebrate oxytocin- and vasopressin-like peptides have presumably evolved from the ancestral nonapeptide vasotocin by gene duplication and today are present in vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Oxytocin- and vasopressin-like peptides have been identified in several invertebrate species, including molluscs, annelids, nematodes and arthropods. Members of this peptide family share high sequence similarity, and it is possible that they are functionally related across the entire animal kingdom. However, it is evident that not all animals express oxytocin/vasopressin neuropeptides and that there is little information available about the biology and physiology of this signalling system of invertebrates and, in particular, of insects, which represent more than half of all known living organisms. This report describes the discovery of novel oxytocin- and vasopressin-like peptides in arthropods and summarizes the status quo of the functional relevance of this neuropeptide signalling system in invertebrates, which will have beneficial implications for the design of selective and potent ligands to human oxytocin and vasopressin receptors.
Arginine vasopressin plays a pivotal role in the control of long-lasting effects of early-life stress on the brain. We previously reported that maternal separation in mice persistently upregulates Avp gene expression associated with reduced DNA methylation of a region in the Avp enhancer. This early-life stress-responsive region serves as a binding site for the methyl-CpG binding protein 2, which in turn is controlled through neuronal activity. We also found that the ability of methyl-CpG binding protein 2 to regulate transcription of the Avp gene and induce DNA methylation occured through the recruitment of components of the epigenetic machinery. Understanding the sequential events involved in the epigenetic regulation of a gene should allow for targeted approaches aimed at reprogramming expression during development and possibly later life.
Endoplasmic reticulum stress in vasopressin neurons of familial diabetes insipidus model mice: aggregate formation and mRNA poly(A) tail shortening
The immunoglobulin heavy chain binding protein (BiP) is an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) chaperone, which binds to newly synthesized secretory and transmembrane proteins to facilitate protein folding. BiP mRNA is expressed in the arginine vasopressin (AVP) neurons in the supraoptic nucleus of wild-type mice even in basal conditions, and the expression levels increase in response to dehydration. These data suggest that AVP neurons are subjected to ER stress. Familial neurohypophysial diabetes insipidus (FNDI) is caused by mutations in the gene locus of AVP. The mutant proteins could accumulate in the ER and possibly increase ER stress in the AVP neurons. We bred mice possessing a mutation causing FNDI, which manifested progressive polyuria, as do the patients with FNDI. Electron microscopic analyses demonstrated that aggregates accumulated in the ER of AVP neurons in FNDI mice. Despite polyuria, which could potentially induce dehydration, AVP mRNA expression was decreased in the supraoptic nucleus, and the AVP mRNA poly(A) tail length was shortened in FNDI mice compared with wild-type mice. Incubation of hypothalamic explants of wild-type mice with ER stressors caused shortening of the poly(A) tail length of AVP mRNA, accompanied by decreases in the expression. These data revealed a mechanism by which ER stress decreases poly(A) tail length of AVP mRNA, and this reduces the load of unfolded proteins that form the aggregates in ER of the AVP neurons in FNDI mice.
Keys for microRNA expression profiling of single rat hypothalamic nuclei and multiplex sequencing strategies
Integrative research has taken on the challenge of addressing questions in physiology by using novel knowledge and novel techniques. Recently, small and long non-coding RNAs have emerged as key regulators of gene expression, while next-generation sequencing technologies have revolutionized the characterization of genomes and gene expression. For a decade, it has been known that microRNAs (miRNAs) are RNAs of 18–24 bases that regulate gene expression in mammals. Here, we first describe the nature of miRNAs and the advantages of high-throughput sequencing technologies for establishing miRNA expression profiles. The hypothalamus harbours a dozen specialized areas or nuclei, the sampling of which is required to establish physiologically relevant miRNA expression profiles. MicroRNA expression profiling from single animals is also important for investigating potential genetic or epigenetic differences between individuals. Establishing a large number of miRNA expression profiles of individual hypothalamic nuclei of single rats at a cost compatible with laboratory finance can be achieved by using tagged cDNA libraries constructed from purified small RNAs and a multiplex sequencing strategy. We continue this report by surveying specificities of the different strategies that are used at present for constructing tagged cDNA libraries and provide a comparative analysis of miRNA expression profiles from hypothalamic arcuate nuclei of seven male Wistar rats.
Power spectral analysis of fetal heart rate variability has been proposed to provide a non-invasive estimate of autonomic balance. However, there are few systematic data before birth. We therefore examined developmental changes in the frequency power spectrum at very low (0–0.04 Hz), low (0.04–0.15 Hz) and high frequencies (0.15–0.4 Hz), as well as the ratio of low- to high-frequency power (LF/HF), in chronically catheterized, healthy fetal sheep at 0.6 (n = 8), 0.7 (n = 7) and 0.8 gestational age (ga; n = 11). In a second study, 0.8 ga fetuses received either atropine (4.8 mg bolus, then 4.8 mg h–1 for 30 min, n = 6) or 6-hydroxydopamine (20 mg ml–1 at 2.5 ml h–1 for 3 h; n = 9). Data were analysed by sleep state, defined by low-voltage–high-frequency (LV) or high-voltage–low-frequency (HV) EEG. Total spectral power increased with gestational age (P < 0.05), while LF/HF decreased from 0.6 to 0.7 ga. At 0.8 ga, heart rate and LF/HF were significantly higher during HV than LV sleep (P < 0.05). Consistent with this, although total spectral power was not significantly greater during HV sleep, there was a significant interaction between sleep state and frequency band (P = 0.02). Both atropine (P = 0.05) and 6-hydroxydopamine (P < 0.05) were associated with an overall reduction in spectral power but no significant effect on the LF/HF ratio. This study does not support substantial, consistent differences between the frequencies of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity in late-gestation fetal sheep.
Chronic depression of hypothalamic paraventricular neuronal activity produces sustained hypotension in hypertensive rats
Changes in the sympathetic nervous system are responsible for the initiation, development and maintenance of hypertension. An important central sympathoexcitatory region is the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus, which may become more active in hypertensive conditions, as shown in acute studies previously. Our objective was to depress PVN neuronal activity chronically by the overexpression of an inwardly rectifying potassium channel (hKir2.1), while evaluating the consequences on blood pressure (BP) and its reflex regulation. In spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and Wistar rats (WKY) lentiviral vectors (LVV-hKir2.1; LV-TREtight-Kir-cIRES-GFP5 4 x 109 IU and LV-Syn-Eff-G4BS-Syn-Tetoff 6.2 x 109 IU in a ratio 1:4) were stereotaxically microinjected bilaterally into the PVN. Sham-treated SHRs and WKY received bilateral PVN microinjections of LVV-eGFP (LV-Syn-Eff-G4BS-Syn-Tetoff 6.2 x 109 IU and LV-TREtight-GFP 5.7 x 109 IU in a ratio 1:4). Blood pressure was monitored continuously by radio-telemetry and evaluated over 75 days. Baroreflex gain was evaluated using phenylephrine (25 μg ml–1, i.v.), whereas lobeline (25 μg ml–1, i.v.) was used to stimulate peripheral chemoreceptors. In SHRs but not normotensive WKY rats, LVV-hKir2.1 expression in the PVN produced time-dependent and significant decreases in systolic (from 158 ± 3 to 132 ± 6 mmHg; P < 0.05) and diastolic BP (from 135 ± 4 to 113 ± 5 mmHg; P < 0.05). The systolic BP low-frequency band was reduced (from 0.79 ± 0.13 to 0.42 ± 0.09 mmHg2; P < 0.05), suggesting reduced sympathetic vasomotor tone. Baroreflex gain was increased and peripheral chemoreflex depressed after PVN microinjection of LVV-hKir2.1. We conclude that the PVN plays a major role in long-term control of BP and sympathetic nervous system activity in SHRs. This is associated with reductions in both peripheral chemosensitivity and respiratory-induced sympathetic modulation and an improvement in baroreflex sensitivity. Our results support the PVN as a powerful site to control BP in neurogenic hypertension.
Pneumatic antishock garment inflation activates the human sympathetic nervous system by abdominal compression
Pneumatic antishock garments (PASG) have been proposed to exert their blood pressure-raising effect mechanically, i.e. by increasing venous return and vascular resistance of the lower body. We tested whether, alternatively, PASG inflation activates the sympathetic nervous system. Five men and four women wore PASG while mean arterial pressure (MAP), muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), heart rate and stroke volume were measured. One leg bladder (LEG) and the abdominal bladder (ABD) of the trousers were inflated individually and in combination (ABD+LEG), at 60 or 90 mmHg for 3 min. By the end of 3 min of inflation, conditions that included the ABD region caused significant increases in MAP in a dose-dependent fashion (7 ± 2, 8 ± 3, 14 ± 4 and 13 ± 5 mmHg for ABD60, ABD+LEG60, ABD90 and ABD+LEG90, respectively, P < 0.05). Likewise, inflation that included ABD caused significant increases in total MSNA compared with control values [306 ± 70, 426 ± 98 and 247 ± 79 units for ABD60, ABD90 and ABD+LEG90, respectively, P < 0.05 (units = burst frequency x burst amplitude]. There were no changes in MAP or MSNA in the LEG-alone conditions. The ABD inflation also caused a significant decrease in stroke volume (–11 ± 3 and –10 ± 3 ml per beat in ABD90 and ABD+LEG90, respectively, P < 0.05) with no change in cardiac output. Neither cardiopulmonary receptor deactivation nor mechanical effects can account for a slowly developing rise in both sympathetic activity and blood pressure during ABD inflation. Rather, these data provide direct evidence that PASG inflation activates the sympathetic nervous system secondarily to abdominal, but not leg, compression.
The cardiovascular actions of fractalkine/CX3CL1 in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus are attenuated in rats with heart failure
The paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus plays an important role in the regulation of sympathetic nerve activity, which is significantly elevated in chronic heart failure (CHF). Fractalkine (FKN) and its cognate receptor, CX3CR1, are constitutively expressed in the central nervous system, but their role and physiological significance are not well known. The aims of the present study were to determine whether FKN plays a cardiovascular role within the PVN and to investigate how the actions of FKN might be altered in CHF. We show that both FKN and CX3CR1 are expressed on neurons in the PVN of rats, suggesting that they may have a physiological function in this brain nucleus. Unilateral microinjection of FKN directly into the PVN of anaesthetized rats elicited a significant dose-related decrease in blood pressure (1.0 nmol, –5 ± 3 mmHg; 2.5 nmol, –13 ± 2 mmHg; 5.0 nmol, –22 ± 3 mmHg; and 7.5 nmol, –32 ± 3 mmHg) and a concomitant increase in heart rate (1.0 nmol, 6 ± 3 beats min–1; 2.5 nmol, 11 ± 3 beats min–1; 5 nmol, 18 ± 4 beats min–1; and 7.5 nmol, 27 ± 5 beats min–1) compared with control saline microinjections. In order to determine whether FKN signalling is altered in rats with CHF, we first performed quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot analysis and followed these experiments with functional studies in rats with CHF and sham-operated control rats. We found a significant increase in CX3CR1 mRNA and protein expression, as determined by quantitative RT-PCR and Western blot analysis, respectively, in the PVN of rats with CHF compared with sham-operated control rats. We also found that the blood pressure effects of FKN (2.5 nmol in 50 nl) were significantly attenuated in rats with CHF (change in mean arterial pressure, –6 ± 3 mmHg) compared with sham-operated control rats (change in mean arterial pressure, –16 ± 6 mmHg). These data suggest that FKN and its receptor, CX3CR1, modulate cardiovascular function at the level of the PVN and that the actions of FKN within this nucleus are altered in heart failure.
The stimulating effect of ghrelin on gastric motility and firing activity of gastric-distension-sensitive hippocampal neurons and its underlying regulation by the hypothalamus
Ghrelin is an acylated peptide originally identified in the rat stomach as the endogenous ligand for growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHSR) that promotes gastric motility. Our aims were to explore the effects of ghrelin on gastric-distension-sensitive neurons in the hippocampus and the potential for ghrelin to regulate gastric motility through the arcuate nucleus (Arc). Single-unit discharges in the hippocampus were recorded extracellularly, and gastric motility in conscious rats was monitored. The expression of GHSR-1a in the hippocampus was determined by PCR, Western blot and fluo-immunohistochemistry staining. Retrograde tracing and fluo-immunohistochemistry staining were used to determine ghrelin neuron projection. Ghrelin–Fluoro-Gold double-labelled neurons and GHSR-1a expression were observed in the Arc and hippocampus, respectively. There were gastric-distension-sensitive neurons in the hippocampus that could be excited by ghrelin or by electrical stimulation of the Arc. The excitatory effects could be blocked completely or partly by pretreatment with the ghrelin receptor antagonist [d-Lys-3]-GHRP-6. Gastric motility was significantly promoted by the administration of ghrelin into the hippocampus in a dose-dependent manner that could be completely abolished by [d-Lys-3]-GHRP-6. Electrical stimulation of the Arc could promote gastric motility as well. Nevertheless, these effects could be mitigated by pretreatment with [d-Lys-3]-GHRP-6. Electrical lesioning of the hippocampus diminished the excitatory effects on gastric motility that were induced by electrical stimulation the Arc. Our findings suggest that ghrelin plays an important role in promoting gastric motility via the hippocampus. The Arc may be involved in regulation of the influence of the hippocampus on gastric motility.
Voluntary muscle and motor cortical activation during progressive exercise and passively induced hyperthermia
This study examined whether central fatigue was exacerbated by an increase in muscle contractile speed caused by passive hyperthermia (PaH) and whether exercise-induced hyperthermia (ExH) combined with related peripheral fatigue influenced this response. The ExH was induced by cycling at 60% of maximal oxygen uptake in 38°C conditions and the PaH by sitting in a 48°C climate chamber. Ten men performed brief (~5 s) and sustained (30 s) maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVCs) of the knee extensors at baseline (CON, ~37.1°C) and during moderate (MOD, ~38.5°C) and severe (SEV, ~39.5°C) hyperthermia. Motor nerve and transcranial magnetic stimulation were used to assess voluntary muscle and cortical activation level, along with contractile properties. Brief MVC force decreased to a similar extent during SEV-ExH (–8%) and SEV-PaH (–6%; P < 0.05 versus CON). Sustained MVC force also decreased during MOD-ExH (–10%), SEV-ExH (–13%) and SEV-PaH (–7%; P < 0.01 versus CON). Motor nerve and cortical activation were reduced on reaching MOD (~3%) and SEV (~5%) ExH and PaH during the brief and sustained MVCs (P < 0.01 versus CON). Peak twitch force decreased on reaching SEV-ExH and SEV-PaH (P < 0.05 versus CON). Following transcranial magnetic stimulation, during the brief and sustained MVCs the peak muscle relaxation rate increased in ExH and PaH (P < 0.01 versus CON). The increase was greatest during the sustained contraction in SEV-PaH (P < 0.01), but this did not exacerbate central fatigue relative to ExH. These results indicate that during fatiguing cycling exercise in the heat, quadriceps peak relaxation rate increases. However, the centrally mediated rate of activation appears sufficient to overcome even the largest increase in muscle relaxation rate, seen during SEV-PaH.
Exercise reveals impairments in left ventricular systolic function in patients with metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is the manifestation of a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors and is associated with a threefold increase in the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, which is suggested to be mediated, in part, by resting left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction. However, to what extent resting LV systolic function is impaired in MetS is controversial, and there are no data indicating whether LV systolic function is impaired during exercise. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to examine comprehensively the LV and arterial responses to exercise in individuals with MetS without diabetes and/or overt cardiovascular disease in comparison to a healthy control population. Cardiovascular function was characterized using Doppler echocardiography and gas exchange in individuals with MetS (n = 27) versus healthy control subjects (n = 20) at rest and during peak exercise. At rest, individuals with MetS displayed normal LV systolic function but reduced LV diastolic function compared with healthy control subjects. During peak exercise, individuals with MetS had impaired contractility, pump performance and vasodilator reserve capacity versus control subjects. A blunted contractile reserve response resulted in diminished arterial–ventricular coupling reserve and limited aerobic capacity in individuals with MetS versus control subjects. These findings are of clinical importance, because they provide insight into the pathophysiological changes in MetS that may predispose this population of individuals to an increased risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
Acetaminophen (paracetamol) is a commonly used over-the-counter analgesic and antipyretic and has previously been shown to improve exercise performance through a reduction in perceived pain. This study sought to establish whether its antipyretic action may also improve exercise capacity in the heat by moderating the increase in core temperature. On separate days, 11 recreationally active participants completed two experimental time-to-exhaustion trials on a cycle ergometer in hot conditions (30°C, 50% relative humidity) after ingesting a placebo control or an oral dose of acetaminophen in a randomized, double-blind design. Following acetaminophen ingestion, participants cycled for a significantly longer period of time (acetaminophen, 23 ± 15 min versus placebo, 19 ± 13 min; P = 0.005; 95% confidence interval = 90–379 s), and this was accompanied by significantly lower core (–0.15°C), skin (–0.47°C) and body temperatures (0.19°C; P < 0.05). In the acetaminophen condition, participants also reported significantly lower ratings of thermal sensation (–0.39; P = 0.015), but no significant change in heart rate was observed (P > 0.05). This is the first study to demonstrate that an acute dose of acetaminophen can improve cycling capacity in hot conditions, and that this may be due to the observed reduction in core, skin and body temperature and the subjective perception of thermal comfort. These findings suggest that acetaminophen may reduce the thermoregulatory strain elicited from exercise, thus improving time to exhaustion.