Journal of Physiology

Syndicate content
RSS feed -- current issue.
Updated: 11 weeks 4 days ago

Reduced contribution of endothelin to the regulation of systemic and pulmonary vascular tone in severe familial hypercholesterolaemia

15 April 2014

Vascular dysfunction has been associated with familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), a severe form of hyperlipidaemia. We recently demonstrated that swine with FH exhibit reduced exercise-induced systemic, but not pulmonary, vasodilatation involving reduced nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability. Since NO normally limits endothelin (ET) action, we examined the hypothesis that reduced systemic vasodilatation during exercise in FH swine results from increased ET-mediated vasoconstriction. Systemic and pulmonary vascular responses to exercise were examined in chronically instrumented normal and FH swine in the absence and presence of the ETA/B receptor antagonist tezosentan. Intrinsic reactivity to ET was further assessed in skeletal muscle arterioles. FH swine exhibited ~9-fold elevation in total plasma cholesterol versus normal swine. Similar to our recent findings, systemic, not pulmonary, vasodilatation during exercise was reduced in FH swine. Blockade of ET receptors caused marked systemic vasodilatation at rest and during exercise in normal swine that was significantly reduced in FH swine. The reduced role of ET in FH swine in vivo was not the result of decreased arteriolar ET responsiveness, as responsiveness was increased in isolated arterioles. Smooth muscle ET receptor protein content was unaltered by FH. However, circulating plasma ET levels were reduced in FH swine. ET receptor antagonism caused pulmonary vasodilatation at rest and during exercise in normal, but not FH, swine. Therefore, contrary to our hypothesis, FH swine exhibit a generalised reduction in the role of ET in regulating vascular tone in vivo probably resulting from reduced ET production. This may represent a unique vascular consequence of severe familial hypercholesterolaemia.

Passive hind-limb cycling improves cardiac function and reduces cardiovascular disease risk in experimental spinal cord injury

15 April 2014

Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes altered autonomic control and severe physical deconditioning that converge to drive maladaptive cardiac remodelling. We used a clinically relevant experimental model to investigate the cardio-metabolic responses to SCI and to establish whether passive hind-limb cycling elicits a cardio-protective effect. Initially, 21 male Wistar rats were evenly assigned to three groups: uninjured control (CON), T3 complete SCI (SCI) or T3 complete SCI plus passive hind-limb cycling (SCI-EX; 2 x 30 min day–1, 5 days week–1 for 4 weeks beginning 6 days post-SCI). On day 32, cardio-metabolic function was assessed using in vivo echocardiography, ex vivo working heart assessments, cardiac histology/molecular biology and blood lipid profiles. Twelve additional rats (n = 6 SCI and n = 6 SCI-EX) underwent in vivo echocardiography and basal haemodynamic assessments pre-SCI and at days 7, 14 and 32 post-SCI to track temporal cardiovascular changes. Compared with CON, SCI exhibited a rapid and sustained reduction in left ventricular dimensions and function that ultimately manifested as reduced contractility, increased myocardial collagen deposition and an up-regulation of transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGFβ1) and mothers against decapentaplegic homolog 3 (Smad3) mRNA. For SCI-EX, the initial reduction in left ventricular dimensions and function at day 7 post-SCI was completely reversed by day 32 post-SCI, and there were no differences in myocardial contractility between SCI-EX and CON. Collagen deposition was similar between SCI-EX and CON. TGFβ1 and Smad3 were down-regulated in SCI-EX. Blood lipid profiles were improved in SCI-EX versus SCI. We provide compelling novel evidence that passive hind-limb cycling prevents cardiac dysfunction and reduces cardiovascular disease risk in experimental SCI.

Role of nitrite in regulation of fetal cephalic circulation in sheep

15 April 2014

Nitrite has been postulated to provide a reservoir for conversion to nitric oxide (NO), especially in tissues with reduced oxygen levels as in the fetus. Nitrite would thus provide local vasodilatation and restore a balance between oxygen supply and need, a putative mechanism of importance especially in the brain. The current experiments test the hypothesis that exogenous nitrite acts as a vasodilator in the cephalic vasculature of the intact, near term fetal sheep. Fetuses were first instrumented to measure arterial blood pressure and carotid artery blood flow and then studied 4–5 days later while in utero without anaesthesia. Initially l-nitro-arginine (LNNA) was given to block endogenous NO production. Carotid resistance to flow increased 2-fold from 0.54 ± 0.01 (SEM) to 1.20 ± 0.08 mmHg min ml–1 (in 13 fetuses, P < 0.001), indicating NO tonically reduces cerebral vascular tone. Sodium nitrite (or saline as control) was then infused in increasing step-doses from 0.01 to 33 μm in half-log increments over a period of 2 h. Carotid artery pressure, blood flow and vascular resistance did not change compared to fetuses receiving saline, even at plasma nitrite concentrations two orders of magnitude above the physiological range. The results indicate that while cephalic vascular tone is controlled by endogenous nitric oxide synthase activity, exogenously administered nitrite is not a vasodilator at physiological concentrations in the vasculature served by the carotid artery of fetal sheep.

Dietary pre-exposure of rats to fish oil does not enhance myocardial efficiency of isolated working hearts or their left ventricular trabeculae

15 April 2014

Numerous epidemiological studies, supported by clinical and experimental findings, have suggested beneficial effects of dietary fish or fish oil supplementation on cardiovascular health. One such experimental study showed a profound (100%) increase in myocardial efficiency (i.e. the ratio of work output to metabolic energy input) of the isolated whole heart, achieved by a corresponding decrease in the rate of myocardial oxygen consumption. However, a number of other investigations have returned null results on the latter energetic index. Such conflicting findings have motivated us to undertake a re-examination. To that effect, we investigated the effects of dietary fatty acid supplementation on myocardial mechano-energetics, with our primary focus on cardiac efficiency. We used both isolated hearts and isolated left ventricular trabeculae of rats fed with one of three distinct diets: reference (REF), fish oil-supplemented (FO) or saturated fat-supplemented (SFA). For all three groups, and at both spatial levels, we supplied 10 mm glucose as the exogenous metabolic substrate. In the working heart experiments, we found no difference in the average mechanical efficiency among the three dietary groups: 14.8 ± 1.1% (REF), 13.9 ± 0.6% (FO) and 13.6 ± 0.7% (SFA). Likewise, we observed no difference in peak mechanical efficiency of left ventricular trabeculae among the REF, FO and SFA groups: 13.3 ± 1.4, 11.2 ± 2.2 and 12.5 ± 1.5%, respectively. We conclude that there is no effect of a period of pre-exposure to a diet supplemented with either fish oil or saturated fatty acids on the efficiency of the myocardium at either spatial level: tissue or whole heart.

Shank2 mutant mice display a hypersecretory response to cholera toxin

15 April 2014

Shank2 is a PDZ (PSD-95/discs large/ZO-1)-based adaptor that has been suggested to regulate membrane transporting proteins in the brain and epithelial tissues. Here, we report that Shank2 mutant (Shank2–/–) mice exhibit aberrant fluid and ion transport in the intestine. Molecular characterization using epithelial tissues from Shank2+/+ and Shank2–/– mice revealed that a long spliceoform of Shank2 (Shank2E) is predominantly expressed in the pancreatic, renal and intestinal epithelia. In functional assays, deletion of Shank2 increased the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR)-dependent short-circuit currents by 84% (< 0.05) and 101% (P < 0.05) in the mouse colon and rectum, respectively. Disruption of the CFTR–Shank2–phosphodiesterase 4D protein complex appeared to be mostly responsible for the changes in CFTR activities. Notably, Shank2 deletion profoundly increased cholera toxin-induced fluid accumulation in the mouse intestine (~90%, < 0.01). Analyses with chemical inhibitors confirmed that the hyperactivation of CFTR channel function is responsible for the increased response to cholera toxin. These results suggest that Shank2 is a key molecule that participates in epithelial homeostasis, in particular to prevent overt secretory responses caused by epithelial pathogens.

GABAergic and glycinergic inputs modulate rhythmogenic mechanisms in the lamprey respiratory network

15 April 2014

We have previously shown that GABA and glycine modulate respiratory activity in the in vitro brainstem preparations of the lamprey and that blockade of GABAA and glycine receptors restores the respiratory rhythm during apnoea caused by blockade of ionotropic glutamate receptors. However, the neural substrates involved in these effects are unknown. To address this issue, the role of GABAA, GABAB and glycine receptors within the paratrigeminal respiratory group (pTRG), the proposed respiratory central pattern generator, and the vagal motoneuron region was investigated both during apnoea induced by blockade of glutamatergic transmission and under basal conditions through microinjections of specific antagonists. The removal of GABAergic, but not glycinergic transmission within the pTRG, causes the resumption of rhythmic respiratory activity during apnoea, and reveals the presence of a modulatory control of the pTRG under basal conditions. A blockade of GABAA and glycine receptors within the vagal region strongly increases the respiratory frequency through disinhibition of neurons projecting to the pTRG from the vagal region. These neurons were retrogradely labelled (neurobiotin) from the pTRG. Intense GABA immunoreactivity is observed both within the pTRG and the vagal area, which corroborates present findings. The results confirm the pTRG as a primary site of respiratory rhythm generation, and suggest that inhibition modulates the activity of rhythm-generating neurons, without any direct role in burst formation and termination mechanisms.

Glutamate receptors in the nucleus tractus solitarius contribute to ventilatory acclimatization to hypoxia in rat

15 April 2014

When exposed to a hypoxic environment the body's first response is a reflex increase in ventilation, termed the hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR). With chronic sustained hypoxia (CSH), such as during acclimatization to high altitude, an additional time-dependent increase in ventilation occurs, which increases the HVR. This secondary increase persists after exposure to CSH and involves plasticity within the circuits in the central nervous system that control breathing. Currently these mechanisms of HVR plasticity are unknown and we hypothesized that they involve glutamatergic synapses in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), where afferent endings from arterial chemoreceptors terminate. To test this, we treated rats held in normoxia (CON) or 10% O2 (CSH) for 7 days and measured ventilation in conscious, unrestrained animals before and after microinjecting glutamate receptor agonists and antagonists into the NTS. In normoxia, AMPA increased ventilation 25% and 50% in CON and CSH, respectively, while NMDA doubled ventilation in both groups (P < 0.05). Specific AMPA and NMDA receptor antagonists (NBQX and MK801, respectively) abolished these effects. MK801 significantly decreased the HVR in CON rats, and completely blocked the acute HVR in CSH rats but had no effect on ventilation in normoxia. NBQX decreased ventilation whenever it was increased relative to normoxic controls; i.e. acute hypoxia in CON and CSH, and normoxia in CSH. These results support our hypothesis that glutamate receptors in the NTS contribute to plasticity in the HVR with CSH. The mechanism underlying this synaptic plasticity is probably glutamate receptor modification, as in CSH rats the expression of phosphorylated NR1 and GluR1 proteins in the NTS increased 35% and 70%, respectively, relative to that in CON rats.

Slowed muscle oxygen uptake kinetics with raised metabolism are not dependent on blood flow or recruitment dynamics

15 April 2014

Oxygen uptake kinetics (VO2) are slowed when exercise is initiated from a raised metabolic rate. Whether this reflects the recruitment of muscle fibres differing in oxidative capacity, or slowed blood flow (Q) kinetics is unclear. This study determined VO2 in canine muscle in situ, with experimental control over muscle activation and Q during contractions initiated from rest and a raised metabolic rate. The gastrocnemius complex of nine anaesthetised, ventilated dogs was isolated and attached to a force transducer. Isometric tetanic contractions (50 Hz; 200 ms duration) via supramaximal sciatic nerve stimulation were used to manipulate metabolic rate: 3 min stimulation at 0.33 Hz (S1), followed by 3 min at 0.67 Hz (S2). Circulation was initially intact (SPON), and subsequently isolated for pump-perfusion (PUMP) above the greatest value in SPON. Muscle VO2 was determined contraction-by-contraction using an ultrasonic flowmeter and venous oximeter, and normalised to tension-time integral (TTI). VO2/TTI and Q were less in S1SPON (mean ± s.d.: 13 ± 3 s and 12 ± 4 s, respectively) than in S2SPON (29 ± 19 s and 31 ± 13 s, respectively; P < 0.05). VO2/TTI was unchanged by pump-perfusion (S1PUMP, 12 ± 4 s; S2PUMP, 24 ± 6 s; P < 0.001) despite increased O2 delivery; at S2 onset, venous O2 saturation was 21 ± 4% and 65 ± 5% in SPON and PUMP, respectively. VO2 kinetics remained slowed when contractions were initiated from a raised metabolic rate despite uniform muscle stimulation and increased O2 delivery. The intracellular mechanism may relate to a falling energy state, approaching saturating ADP concentration, and/or slowed mitochondrial activation; but further study is required. These data add to the evidence that muscle VO2 control is more complex than previously suggested.

Exercise training, but not resveratrol, improves metabolic and inflammatory status in skeletal muscle of aged men

15 April 2014

The aim was to investigate the metabolic and anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol alone and when combined with exercise training in skeletal muscle of aged human subjects. Healthy, physically inactive men (60–72 years old) were randomized to either 8 weeks of daily intake of 250 mg resveratrol or placebo or to 8 weeks of high-intensity exercise training with 250 mg resveratrol or placebo. Before and after the interventions, resting blood samples and muscle biopsies were obtained and a one-legged knee-extensor endurance exercise test was performed. Exercise training increased skeletal muscle peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor- co-activator-1α mRNA ~1.5-fold, cytochrome c protein ~1.3-fold, cytochrome c oxidase I protein ~1.5-fold, citrate synthase activity ~1.3-fold, 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase activity ~1.3-fold, inhibitor of B-α and inhibitor of B-β protein content ~1.3-fold and time to exhaustion in the one-legged knee-extensor endurance exercise test by ~1.2-fold, with no significant additive or adverse effects of resveratrol on these parameters. Despite an overall ~25% reduction in total acetylation level in skeletal muscle with resveratrol, no exclusive resveratrol-mediated metabolic effects were observed on the investigated parameters. Notably, however, resveratrol blunted an exercise training-induced decrease (~20%) in protein carbonylation and decrease (~40%) in tumour necrosis factor α mRNA content in skeletal muscle. In conclusion, resveratrol did not elicit metabolic improvements in healthy aged subjects; in fact, resveratrol even impaired the observed exercise training-induced improvements in markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in skeletal muscle. Collectively, this highlights the metabolic efficacy of exercise training in aged subjects and does not support the contention that resveratrol is a potential exercise mimetic in healthy aged subjects.

Vitamin C and E supplementation hampers cellular adaptation to endurance training in humans: a double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

15 April 2014

In this double-blind, randomised, controlled trial, we investigated the effects of vitamin C and E supplementation on endurance training adaptations in humans. Fifty-four young men and women were randomly allocated to receive either 1000 mg of vitamin C and 235 mg of vitamin E or a placebo daily for 11 weeks. During supplementation, the participants completed an endurance training programme consisting of three to four sessions per week (primarily of running), divided into high-intensity interval sessions [4–6 x 4–6 min; >90% of maximal heart rate (HRmax)] and steady state continuous sessions (30–60 min; 70–90% of HRmax). Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max ), submaximal running and a 20 m shuttle run test were assessed and blood samples and muscle biopsies were collected, before and after the intervention. Participants in the vitamin C and E group increased their VO2 max (mean ± s.d.: 8 ± 5%) and performance in the 20 m shuttle test (10 ± 11%) to the same degree as those in the placebo group (mean ± s.d.: 8 ± 5% and 14 ± 17%, respectively). However, the mitochondrial marker cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV (COX4) and cytosolic peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor- coactivator 1 α (PGC-1α) increased in the m. vastus lateralis in the placebo group by 59 ± 97% and 19 ± 51%, respectively, but not in the vitamin C and E group (COX4: –13 ± 54%; PGC-1α: –13 ± 29%; P ≤ 0.03, between groups). Furthermore, mRNA levels of CDC42 and mitogen-activated protein kinase 1 (MAPK1) in the trained muscle were lower in the vitamin C and E group than in the placebo group (≤ 0.05). Daily vitamin C and E supplementation attenuated increases in markers of mitochondrial biogenesis following endurance training. However, no clear interactions were detected for improvements in VO2 max and running performance. Consequently, vitamin C and E supplementation hampered cellular adaptations in the exercised muscles, and although this did not translate to the performance tests applied in this study, we advocate caution when considering antioxidant supplementation combined with endurance exercise.

Following the ontogeny of retinal waves: pan-retinal recordings of population dynamics in the neonatal mouse

01 April 2014

The immature retina generates spontaneous waves of spiking activity that sweep across the ganglion cell layer during a limited period of development before the onset of visual experience. The spatiotemporal patterns encoded in the waves are believed to be instructive for the wiring of functional connections throughout the visual system. However, the ontogeny of retinal waves is still poorly documented as a result of the relatively low resolution of conventional recording techniques. Here, we characterize the spatiotemporal features of mouse retinal waves from birth until eye opening in unprecedented detail using a large-scale, dense, 4096-channel multielectrode array that allowed us to record from the entire neonatal retina at near cellular resolution. We found that early cholinergic waves propagate with random trajectories over large areas with low ganglion cell recruitment. They become slower, smaller and denser when GABAA signalling matures, as occurs beyond postnatal day (P) 7. Glutamatergic influences dominate from P10, coinciding with profound changes in activity dynamics. At this time, waves cease to be random and begin to show repetitive trajectories confined to a few localized hotspots. These hotspots gradually tile the retina with time, and disappear after eye opening. Our observations demonstrate that retinal waves undergo major spatiotemporal changes during ontogeny. Our results support the hypotheses that cholinergic waves guide the refinement of retinal targets and that glutamatergic waves may also support the wiring of retinal receptive fields.

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.