Journal of Physiology

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Neuronal detection thresholds during vestibular compensation: contributions of response variability and sensory substitution

01 April 2014

The vestibular system is responsible for processing self-motion, allowing normal subjects to discriminate the direction of rotational movements as slow as 1–2 deg s–1. After unilateral vestibular injury patients’ direction–discrimination thresholds worsen to ~20 deg s–1, and despite some improvement thresholds remain substantially elevated following compensation. To date, however, the underlying neural mechanisms of this recovery have not been addressed. Here, we recorded from first-order central neurons in the macaque monkey that provide vestibular information to higher brain areas for self-motion perception. Immediately following unilateral labyrinthectomy, neuronal detection thresholds increased by more than two-fold (from 14 to 30 deg s–1). While thresholds showed slight improvement by week 3 (25 deg s–1), they never recovered to control values – a trend mirroring the time course of perceptual thresholds in patients. We further discovered that changes in neuronal response variability paralleled changes in sensitivity for vestibular stimulation during compensation, thereby causing detection thresholds to remain elevated over time. However, we found that in a subset of neurons, the emergence of neck proprioceptive responses combined with residual vestibular modulation during head-on-body motion led to better neuronal detection thresholds. Taken together, our results emphasize that increases in response variability to vestibular inputs ultimately constrain neural thresholds and provide evidence that sensory substitution with extravestibular (i.e. proprioceptive) inputs at the first central stage of vestibular processing is a neural substrate for improvements in self-motion perception following vestibular loss. Thus, our results provide a neural correlate for the patient benefits provided by rehabilitative strategies that take advantage of the convergence of these multisensory cues.

Remodelling at the calyx of Held-MNTB synapse in mice developing with unilateral conductive hearing loss

01 April 2014

Structure and function of central synapses are profoundly influenced by experience during developmental sensitive periods. Sensory synapses, which are the indispensable interface for the developing brain to interact with its environment, are particularly plastic. In the auditory system, moderate forms of unilateral hearing loss during development are prevalent but the pre- and postsynaptic modifications that occur when hearing symmetry is perturbed are not well understood. We investigated this issue by performing experiments at the large calyx of Held synapse. Principal neurons of the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) are innervated by calyx of Held terminals that originate from the axons of globular bushy cells located in the contralateral ventral cochlear nucleus. We compared populations of synapses in the same animal that were either sound deprived (SD) or sound experienced (SE) after unilateral conductive hearing loss (CHL). Middle ear ossicles were removed 1 week prior to hearing onset (approx. postnatal day (P) 12) and morphological and electrophysiological approaches were applied to auditory brainstem slices taken from these mice at P17–19. Calyces in the SD and SE MNTB acquired their mature digitated morphology but these were structurally more complex than those in normal hearing mice. This was accompanied by bilateral decreases in initial EPSC amplitude and synaptic conductance despite the CHL being unilateral. During high-frequency stimulation, some SD synapses displayed short-term depression whereas others displayed short-term facilitation followed by slow depression similar to the heterogeneities observed in normal hearing mice. However SE synapses predominantly displayed short-term facilitation followed by slow depression which could be explained in part by the decrease in release probability. Furthermore, the excitability of principal cells in the SD MNTB had increased significantly. Despite these unilateral changes in short-term plasticity and excitability, heterogeneities in the spiking fidelity among the population of both SD and SE synapses showed similar continuums to those in normal hearing mice. Our study suggests that preservations in the heterogeneity in spiking fidelity via synaptic remodelling ensures symmetric functional stability which is probably important for retaining the capability to maximally code sound localization cues despite moderate asymmetries in hearing experience.

Carbachol excites sublaterodorsal nucleus neurons projecting to the spinal cord

01 April 2014

Considerable electrophysiological and pharmacological evidence has long suggested an important role for acetylcholine in the regulation of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. For example, injection of the cholinergic agonist carbachol into the dorsomedial pons produces an REM sleep-like state with muscle atonia and cortical activation, both of which are cardinal features of REM sleep. Located within this region of the pons is the sublaterodorsal nucleus (SLD), a structure thought to be both necessary and sufficient for generating REM sleep muscle atonia. Subsets of glutamatergic SLD neurons potently contribute to motor inhibition during REM sleep through descending projections to motor-related glycinergic/GABAergic neurons in the spinal cord and ventromedial medulla. Prior electrophysiological and pharmacological studies examining the effects of acetylcholine on SLD neurons have, however, produced conflicting results. In the present study, we sought to clarify how acetylcholine influences the activity of spinally projecting SLD (SLDsp) neurons. We used retrograde tracing in combination with patch-clamp recordings and recorded pre- and postsynaptic effects of carbachol on SLDsp neurons. Carbachol acted presynaptically by increasing the frequency of glutamatergic miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents. We also found that carbachol directly excited SLDsp neurons by activating an Na+–Ca2+ exchanger. Both pre- and postsynaptic effects were mediated by co-activation of M1 and M3 muscarinic receptors. These observations suggest that acetylcholine produces synergistic, excitatory pre- and postsynaptic responses on SLDsp neurons that, in turn, probably serve to promote muscle atonia during REM sleep.

Photoresponse diversity among the five types of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells

01 April 2014

Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) mediate non-image-forming visual responses, including pupillary constriction, circadian photoentrainment and suppression of pineal melatonin secretion. Five morphological types of ipRGCs, M1–M5, have been identified in mice. In order to understand their functions better, we studied the photoresponses of all five cell types, by whole-cell recording from fluorescently labelled ipRGCs visualized using multiphoton microscopy. All ipRGC types generated melanopsin-based (‘intrinsic’) as well as synaptically driven (‘extrinsic’) light responses. The intrinsic photoresponses of M1 cells were lower threshold, higher amplitude and faster than those of M2–M5. The peak amplitudes of extrinsic light responses differed among the ipRGC types; however, the responses of all cell types had comparable thresholds, kinetics and waveforms, and all cells received rod input. While all five types exhibited inhibitory amacrine-cell and excitatory bipolar-cell inputs from the ‘on’ channel, M1 and M3 received additional ‘off’-channel inhibition, possibly through their ‘off’-sublamina dendrites. The M2–M5 ipRGCs had centre–surround-organized receptive fields, implicating a capacity to detect spatial contrast. In contrast, the receptive fields of M1 cells lacked surround antagonism, which might be caused by the surround of the inhibitory input nullifying the surround of the excitatory input. All ipRGCs responded robustly to a wide range of motion speeds, and M1–M4 cells appeared tuned to different speeds, suggesting that they might analyse the speed of motion. Retrograde labelling revealed that M1–M4 cells project to the superior colliculus, suggesting that the contrast and motion information signalled by these cells could be used by this sensorimotor area to detect novel objects and motion in the visual field.

Extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation in forebrain neurones contributes to osmoregulatory mechanisms

01 April 2014

Vasopressin secretion from the magnocellular neurosecretory cells (MNCs) is crucial for body fluid homeostasis. Osmotic regulation of MNC activity involves the concerted modulation of intrinsic mechanosensitive ion channels, taurine release from local astrocytes as well as excitatory inputs derived from osmosensitive forebrain regions. Extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERK) are mitogen-activated protein kinases that transduce extracellular stimuli into intracellular post-translational and transcriptional responses, leading to changes in intrinsic neuronal properties and synaptic function. Here, we investigated whether ERK activation (i.e. phosphorylation) plays a role in the functioning of forebrain osmoregulatory networks. We found that within 10 min after intraperitoneal injections of hypertonic saline (3 m, 6 m) in rats, many phosphoERK-immunopositive neurones were observed in osmosensitive forebrain regions, including the MNC containing supraoptic nuclei. The intensity of ERK labelling was dose-dependent. Reciprocally, slow intragastric infusions of water that lower osmolality reduced basal ERK phosphorylation. In the supraoptic nucleus, ERK phosphorylation predominated in vasopressin neurones vs. oxytocin neurones and was absent from astrocytes. Western blot experiments confirmed that phosphoERK expression in the supraoptic nucleus was dose dependent. Intracerebroventricular administration of the ERK phosphorylation inhibitor U 0126 before a hyperosmotic challenge reduced the number of both phosphoERK-immunopositive neurones and Fos expressing neurones in osmosensitive forebrain regions. Blockade of ERK phosphorylation also reduced hypertonically induced depolarization and an increase in firing of the supraoptic MNCs recorded in vitro. It finally reduced hypertonically induced vasopressin release in the bloodstream. Altogether, these findings identify ERK phosphorylation as a new element contributing to the osmoregulatory mechanisms of vasopressin release.

Neuropeptide Y acts in the paraventricular nucleus to suppress sympathetic nerve activity and its baroreflex regulation

01 April 2014

Neuropeptide Y (NPY), a brain neuromodulator that has been strongly implicated in the regulation of energy balance, also acts centrally to inhibit sympathetic nerve activity (SNA); however, the site and mechanism of action are unknown. In chloralose-anaesthetized female rats, nanoinjection of NPY into the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) dose-dependently suppressed lumbar SNA (LSNA) and its baroreflex regulation, and these effects were blocked by prior inhibition of NPY Y1 or Y5 receptors. Moreover, PVN injection of Y1 and Y5 receptor antagonists in otherwise untreated rats increased basal and baroreflex control of LSNA, indicating that endogenous NPY tonically inhibits PVN presympathetic neurons. The sympathoexcitation following blockade of PVN NPY inhibition was eliminated by prior PVN nanoinjection of the melanocortin 3/4 receptor inhibitor SHU9119. Moreover, presympathetic neurons, identified immunohistochemically using cholera toxin b neuronal tract tracing from the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM), express NPY Y1 receptor immunoreactivity, and patch-clamp recordings revealed that both NPY and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) inhibit and stimulate, respectively, PVN–RVLM neurons. Collectively, these data suggest that PVN NPY inputs converge with α-MSH to influence presympathetic neurons. Together these results identify endogenous NPY as a novel and potent inhibitory neuromodulator within the PVN that may contribute to changes in SNA that occur in states associated with altered energy balance, such as obesity and pregnancy.

Reflex control of inflammation by sympathetic nerves, not the vagus

01 April 2014

We investigated a neural reflex that controls the strength of inflammatory responses to immune challenge – the inflammatory reflex. In anaesthetized rats challenged with intravenous lipopolysaccharide (LPS, 60 μg kg–1), we found strong increases in plasma levels of the key inflammatory mediator tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα) 90 min later. Those levels were unaffected by previous bilateral cervical vagotomy, but were enhanced approximately 5-fold if the greater splanchnic sympathetic nerves had been cut. Sham surgery had no effect, and plasma corticosterone levels were unaffected by nerve sections, so could not explain this result. Electrophysiological recordings demonstrated that efferent neural activity in the splanchnic nerve and its splenic branch was strongly increased by LPS treatment. Splenic nerve activity was dependent on inputs from the splanchnic nerves: vagotomy had no effect on the activity in either nerve. Together, these data demonstrate that immune challenge with this dose of LPS activates a neural reflex that is powerful enough to cause an 80% suppression of the acute systemic inflammatory response. The efferent arm of this reflex is in the splanchnic sympathetic nerves, not the vagi as previously proposed. As with other physiological responses to immune challenge, the afferent pathway is presumptively humoral: the present data show that vagal afferents play no measurable part. Because inflammation sits at the gateway to immune responses, this reflex could play an important role in immune function as well as inflammatory diseases.

Adult spinal motoneurones are not hyperexcitable in a mouse model of inherited amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

01 April 2014

In amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), an adult onset disease in which there is progressive degeneration of motoneurones, it has been suggested that an intrinsic hyperexcitability of motoneurones (i.e. an increase in their firing rates), contributes to excitotoxicity and to disease onset. Here we show that there is no such intrinsic hyperexcitability in spinal motoneurones. Our studies were carried out in an adult mouse model of ALS with a mutated form of superoxide dismutase 1 around the time of the first muscle fibre denervations. We showed that the recruitment current, the voltage threshold for spiking and the frequency–intensity gain in the primary range are all unchanged in most spinal motoneurones, despite an increased input conductance. On its own, increased input conductance would decrease excitability, but the homeostasis for excitability is maintained due to an upregulation of a depolarizing current that is activated just below the spiking threshold. However, this homeostasis failed in a substantial fraction of motoneurones, which became hypoexcitable and unable to produce sustained firing in response to ramps of current. We found similar results both in lumbar motoneurones recorded in anaesthetized mice, and in sacrocaudal motoneurones recorded in vitro, indicating that the lack of hyperexcitability is not caused by anaesthetics. Our results suggest that, if excitotoxicity is indeed a mechanism leading to degeneration in ALS, it is not caused by the intrinsic electrical properties of motoneurones but by extrinsic factors such as excessive synaptic excitation.

Blunted sympathoinhibitory responses in obesity-related hypertension are due to aberrant central but not peripheral signalling mechanisms

01 April 2014

The gut hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) acts at subdiaphragmatic vagal afferents to induce renal and splanchnic sympathoinhibition and vasodilatation, via reflex inhibition of a subclass of cardiovascular-controlling neurons in the rostroventrolateral medulla (RVLM). These sympathoinhibitory and vasodilator responses are blunted in obese, hypertensive rats and our aim in the present study was to determine whether this is attributable to (i) altered sensitivity of presympathetic vasomotor RVLM neurons, and (ii) aberrant peripheral or central signalling mechanisms. Using a diet-induced obesity model, male Sprague–Dawley rats exhibited either an obesity-prone (OP) or obesity-resistant (OR) phenotype when placed on a medium high fat diet for 13–15 weeks; control animals were placed on a low fat diet. OP animals had elevated resting arterial pressure compared to OR/control animals (P < 0.05). Barosensitivity of RVLM neurons was significantly attenuated in OP animals (P < 0.05), suggesting altered baroreflex gain. CCK induced inhibitory responses in RVLM neurons of OR/control animals but not OP animals. Subdiaphragmatic vagal nerve responsiveness to CCK and CCK1 receptor mRNA expression in nodose ganglia did not differ between the groups, but CCK induced significantly less Fos-like immunoreactivity in both the nucleus of the solitary tract and the caudal ventrolateral medulla of OP animals compared to controls (P < 0.05). These results suggest that blunted sympathoinhibitory and vasodilator responses in obesity-related hypertension are due to alterations in RVLM neuronal responses, resulting from aberrant central but not peripheral signalling mechanisms. In obesity, blunted sympathoinhibitory mechanisms may lead to increased regional vascular resistance and contribute to the development of hypertension.

Effective connectivity of the subthalamic nucleus-globus pallidus network during Parkinsonian oscillations

01 April 2014

In Parkinsonism, subthalamic nucleus (STN) neurons and two types of external globus pallidus (GP) neuron inappropriately synchronise their firing in time with slow (~1 Hz) or beta (13–30 Hz) oscillations in cortex. We recorded the activities of STN, Type-I GP (GP-TI) and Type-A GP (GP-TA) neurons in anaesthetised Parkinsonian rats during such oscillations to constrain a series of computational models that systematically explored the effective connections and physiological parameters underlying neuronal rhythmic firing and phase preferences in vivo. The best candidate model, identified with a genetic algorithm optimising accuracy/complexity measures, faithfully reproduced experimental data and predicted that the effective connections of GP-TI and GP-TA neurons are quantitatively different. Estimated inhibitory connections from striatum were much stronger to GP-TI neurons than to GP-TA neurons, whereas excitatory connections from thalamus were much stronger to GP-TA and STN neurons than to GP-TI neurons. Reciprocal connections between GP-TI and STN neurons were matched in weight, but those between GP-TA and STN neurons were not; only GP-TI neurons sent substantial connections back to STN. Different connection weights between and within the two types of GP neuron were also evident. Adding to connection differences, GP-TA and GP-TI neurons were predicted to have disparate intrinsic physiological properties, reflected in distinct autonomous firing rates. Our results elucidate potential substrates of GP functional dichotomy, and emphasise that rhythmic inputs from striatum, thalamus and cortex are important for setting activity in the STN–GP network during Parkinsonian beta oscillations, suggesting they arise from interactions between most nodes of basal ganglia–thalamocortical circuits.

Kainate receptor subunit diversity underlying response diversity in retinal Off bipolar cells

01 April 2014

Postsynaptic kainate receptors mediate excitatory synaptic transmission over a broad range of temporal frequencies. In heterologous systems, the temporal responses of kainate receptors vary when different channel-forming and auxiliary subunits are co-expressed but how this variability relates to the temporal differences at central synapses is incompletely understood. The mammalian cone photoreceptor synapse provides advantages for comparing the different temporal signalling roles of kainate receptors, as cones release glutamate over a range of temporal frequencies, and three functionally distinct Off bipolar cell types receive cone signals at synapses that contain either AMPA or kainate receptors, all with different temporal properties. A disadvantage is that the different receptor subunits are not identified. We used in situ hybridization, immunocytochemistry, and pharmacology to identify the kainate receptor and auxiliary subunits in ground squirrel (Ictidomys tridecimlineatus) cb1a/b, cb2, and cb3a/b Off bipolar cell types. As expected, the types showed distinct subunit expression patterns. Kainate receptors mediated ~80% of the synaptic response in cb3a/b cells and were heteromers of GluK1 and GluK5. Cb3a/b cells contained message for GluK1 and GluK5, and also GluK3 and the auxiliary subunit Neto1. The synaptic responses in cb1a/b cells were mediated by GluK1-containing kainate receptors that behaved differently from the receptors expressed by cb3a/b cells. AMPA receptors mediated the entire synaptic response in cb2 cells and the remaining synaptic response in cb3a/b cells. We conclude that GluK1 is the predominant kainate receptor subunit in cb1 and cb3 Off bipolar cells. Different temporal response properties may result from selective association with GluK3, GluK5, or Neto1.

Glycinergic feedback enhances synaptic gain in the distal retina

01 April 2014

Glycine input originates with interplexiform cells, a group of neurons situated within the inner retina that transmit signals centrifugally to the distal retina. The effect on visual function of this novel mechanism is largely unknown. Using gramicidin-perforated patch whole cell recordings, intracellular recordings and specific antibody labelling techniques, we examined the effects of the synaptic connections between glycinergic interplexiform cells, photoreceptors and bipolar cells. To confirm that interplexiform cells make centrifugal feedback on bipolar cell dendrites, we recorded the postsynaptic glycine currents from axon-detached bipolar cells while stimulating presynaptic interplexiform cells. The results show that glycinergic interplexiform cells activate bipolar cell dendrites that express the α3 subunit of the glycine receptor, as well as a subclass of unidentified receptors on photoreceptors. By virtue of their synaptic contacts, glycine centrifugal feedback increases glutamate release from photoreceptors and suppresses the uptake of glutamate by the type 2A excitatory amino acid transporter on photoreceptors. The net effect is a significant increase in synaptic gain between photoreceptors and their second-order neurons.

Ectopic release of glutamate contributes to spillover at parallel fibre synapses in the cerebellum

01 April 2014

In the rat cerebellar molecular layer, spillover of glutamate between parallel fibre synapses can lead to activation of perisynaptic receptors that mediate short- and long-term plasticity. This effect is greatest when clusters of fibres are stimulated at high frequencies, suggesting that glutamate clearance mechanisms must be overwhelmed before spillover can occur. However, parallel fibres can also release transmitter directly into the extracellular space, from ‘ectopic’ release sites. Ectopic transmission activates AMPA receptors on the Bergmann glial cell processes that envelop parallel fibre synapses, but the possible contribution of this extrasynaptic release to intersynaptic communication has not been explored. We exploited long-term depression of ectopic transmission, and selective pharmacology, to investigate the impact of these release sites on the time course of Purkinje neuron excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs). Depletion of ectopic release pools by activity-dependent long-term depression decreased EPSC decay time, revealing a ‘late’ current that is present when fibres are stimulated at low frequencies. This effect was enhanced when glutamate transporters were inhibited, and reduced when extracellular diffusion was impeded. Blockade of N-type Ca2+ channels inhibited ectopic transmission to Bergmann glia and decreased EPSC decay time. Similarly, perfusion of the Ca2+ chelator EGTA-AM into the slice progressively eliminated ectopic transmission to glia and decreased EPSC decay time with closely similar time courses. Collectively, this evidence suggests that ectopically released glutamate contributes to spillover transmission, and that ectopic release therefore degrades the spatial precision of synapses that fire infrequently, and may make them more prone to exhibit plasticity.

Huntingtin-associated protein 1 regulates exocytosis, vesicle docking, readily releasable pool size and fusion pore stability in mouse chromaffin cells

01 April 2014

Huntingtin-associated protein 1 (HAP1) was initially established as a neuronal binding partner of huntingtin, mutations in which underlie Huntington's disease. Subcellular localization and protein interaction data indicate that HAP1 may be important in vesicle trafficking and cell signalling. In this study, we establish that HAP1 is important in several steps of exocytosis in adrenal chromaffin cells. Using carbon-fibre amperometry, we measured single vesicle exocytosis in chromaffin cells obtained from HAP1–/– and HAP1+/+ littermate mice. Numbers of Ca2+-dependent and Ca2+-independent full fusion events in HAP1–/– cells are significantly decreased compared with those in HAP1+/+ cells. We observed no change in the frequency of ‘kiss-and-run’ fusion events or in Ca2+ entry. Whereas release per full fusion event is unchanged in HAP1–/– cells, early fusion pore duration is prolonged, as indicated by the increased duration of pre-spike foot signals. Kiss-and-run events have a shorter duration, indicating opposing roles for HAP1 in the stabilization of the fusion pore during full fusion and transient fusion, respectively. We use electron microscopy to demonstrate a reduction in the number of vesicles docked at the plasma membrane of HAP1–/– cells, where membrane capacitance measurements reveal the readily releasable pool of vesicles to be reduced in size. Our study therefore illustrates that HAP1 regulates exocytosis by influencing the morphological docking of vesicles at the plasma membrane, the ability of vesicles to be released rapidly upon stimulation, and the early stages of fusion pore formation.

Peripherally driven low-threshold inhibitory inputs to lamina I local-circuit and projection neurones: a new circuit for gating pain responses

01 April 2014

Spinal lamina I is a key element of the pain processing system which relays primary afferent input to supraspinal areas. However, little is known about how the signal is modulated by its intrinsic network including local-circuit neurones (LCNs) and much less numerous anterolateral tract projection neurones (PNs). Here, we used whole-cell patch clamp recordings in an isolated spinal cord preparation to examine properties of identified LCNs (n = 85) and PNs (n = 73) in their functionally preserved local networks. Forty LCNs showed spontaneous rhythmic firing (2–7 Hz) at zero current injection, which persisted in the presence of blockers of fast synaptic transmission. In the remaining cases, most LCNs and PNs fired tonically in response to depolarizing current injections. We identified LCNs and PNs receiving low-threshold primary afferent-driven inhibitory inputs, which in many cases were disynaptic and temporally preceded classical high-threshold excitatory inputs. This direct inhibitory link between low-threshold afferents and PNs can function as a postsynaptic gate controlling the nociceptive information flow in the spinal cord. The LCNs were found to be integrated into the superficial dorsal horn network by their receipt of monosynaptic and disynaptic inputs from other lamina I and II neurones. One-third of LCNs and two-thirds of PNs tested responded to substance P application. Thus, substance P released by a noxious afferent stimulation may excite PNs in two ways: directly, and via the activation of presynaptic LCN circuitries. In conclusion, we have described important properties of identified lamina I neurones and their roles in a new circuit for gating pain responses.

The selectivity of rostroventral medulla descending control of spinal sensory inputs shifts postnatally from A fibre to C fibre evoked activity

01 April 2014

Brainstem descending control is crucial in maintaining the balance of excitation and inhibition in spinal sensory networks. In the adult, descending inhibition of spinal dorsal horn circuits arising from the brainstem rostroventral medial medulla (RVM) is targeted to neurons with a strong nociceptive C fibre input. Before the fourth postnatal week, the RVM exerts a net facilitation of spinal networks but it is not known if this is targeted to specific dorsal horn neuronal inputs. As the maturation from descending facilitation to inhibition occurs only after C fibre central synaptic maturation is complete, we hypothesized that RVM facilitation in young animals is targeted to A fibre afferent inputs. To test this, the RVM was stimulated while recording dorsal horn neuronal activity in vivo under isoflurane anaesthesia at postnatal day (P) 21 and P40 (adult). Electrical thresholds for A and C fibre evoked activity, spike counts and wind-up characteristics at baseline and during RVM stimulation (10–100 µA, 10 Hz) were compared. In adults, RVM stimulation selectively increased the threshold for C fibre evoked activity while at P21, it selectively decreased the threshold for A fibre evoked activity and these effects were correlated to the wind-up characteristics of the neuron. Thus, the postnatal shift in RVM control of dorsal horn circuits is not only directional but also modality specific, from facilitation of A fibre input in the young animal to inhibition of nociceptive C input in the adult, with additional contextual factors. The descending control of spinal sensory networks serves very different functions in young and adult animals.

In vivo quantification of lymph viscosity and pressure in lymphatic vessels and draining lymph nodes of arthritic joints in mice

15 March 2014

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory joint disease with episodic flares. In TNF-Tg mice, a model of inflammatory–erosive arthritis, the popliteal lymph node (PLN) enlarges during the pre-arthritic ‘expanding’ phase, and then ‘collapses’ with adjacent knee flare associated with the loss of the intrinsic lymphatic pulse. As the mechanisms responsible are unknown, we developed in vivo methods to quantify lymph viscosity and pressure in mice with wild-type (WT), expanding and collapsed PLN. While no differences in viscosity were detected via multiphoton fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (MP-FRAP) of injected FITC-BSA, a 32.6% decrease in lymph speed was observed in vessels afferent to collapsed PLN (P < 0.05). Direct measurement of intra-lymph node pressure (LNP) demonstrated a decrease in expanding PLN versus WT pressure (3.41 ± 0.43 vs. 6.86 ± 0.56 cmH2O; P < 0.01), which dramatically increased to 9.92 ± 1.79 cmH2O in collapsed PLN. Lymphatic pumping pressure (LPP), measured indirectly by slowly releasing a pressurized cuff occluding indocyanine green (ICG), demonstrated an increase in vessels afferent to expanding PLN versus WT (18.76 ± 2.34 vs. 11.04 ± 1.47 cmH2O; P < 0.01), which dropped to 2.61 ± 0.72 cmH2O (P < 0.001) after PLN collapse. Herein, we document the first in vivo measurements of murine lymph viscosity and lymphatic pressure, and provide evidence to support the hypothesis that lymphangiogenesis and lymphatic transport are compensatory mechanisms to prevent synovitis via increased drainage of inflamed joints. Furthermore, the decrease in lymphatic flow and loss of LPP during PLN collapse are consistent with decreased drainage from the joint during arthritic flare, and validate these biomarkers of RA progression and possibly other chronic inflammatory conditions.