Journal of Physiology

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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.

Muscle contraction increases interstitial nitric oxide as predicted by a new model of local blood flow regulation

15 March 2014

The prevailing metabolic theory of local blood flow regulation suggests the dilatation of arterioles in response to tissue hypoxia via the emission of multiple metabolic vasodilators by parenchymal cells. We have proposed a mechanism of regulation, built from well-known components, which assumes that arterioles are normally dilated in metabolically active tissues, due to the emission of NO by the endothelium of microvessels. Regulation of local blood flow aims at preventing an excessive supply of oxygen (O2) and glucose to the tissue and thus provides an adequate supply, in contrast to the metabolic regulation theory which requires permanent hypoxia to generate the metabolic vasodilators. The mediator of the restrictive signal is superoxide anion (O2–) released by membrane NAD(P)H oxidases into the interstitial space, where it neutralizes NO at a diffusion-limited rate. This model predicts that the onset of muscle contraction will lead to the cessation of O2– production, which will cause an elevation of interstitial NO concentration and an increase in fluorescence of the NO probe DAF-FM after its conversion to DAF-T. The time course of DAF-T fluorescence in contracting muscle is predicted by also considering the washout from the muscle of the interstitially loaded NO indicator. Experiments using pulse fluorimetry confirmed an increase in the interstitial concentration of NO available for reaction with DAF-FM during bouts of muscle contraction. The sharp increase in interstitial [NO] is consistent with the hypothesis that the termination of the neutralizing superoxide flow into the interstitium is associated with the activation of mitochondria and a reduction of the interstitial oxygen tension. The advantage of the new model is its ability to explain the interaction of metabolic activity and local blood flow through the adequate delivery of glucose and oxygen.

RGS4 regulates partial agonism of the M2 muscarinic receptor-activated K+ currents

15 March 2014

Partial agonists are used clinically to avoid overstimulation of receptor-mediated signalling, as they produce a submaximal response even at 100% receptor occupancy. The submaximal efficacy of partial agonists is due to conformational change of the agonist–receptor complex, which reduces effector activation. In addition to signalling activators, several regulators help control intracellular signal transductions. However, it remains unclear whether these signalling regulators contribute to partial agonism. Here we show that regulator of G-protein signalling (RGS) 4 is a determinant for partial agonism of the M2 muscarinic receptor (M2R). In rat atrial myocytes, pilocarpine evoked smaller G-protein-gated K+ inwardly rectifying (KG) currents than those evoked by ACh. In a Xenopus oocyte expression system, pilocarpine acted as a partial agonist in the presence of RGS4 as it did in atrial myocytes, while it acted like a full agonist in the absence of RGS4. Functional couplings within the agonist–receptor complex/G-protein/RGS4 system controlled the efficacy of pilocarpine relative to ACh. The pilocarpine–M2R complex suppressed G-protein-mediated activation of KG currents via RGS4. Our results demonstrate that partial agonism of M2R is regulated by the RGS4-mediated inhibition of G-protein signalling. This finding helps us to understand the molecular components and mechanism underlying the partial agonism of M2R-mediated physiological responses.

Vasoactive agonists exert dynamic and coordinated effects on vascular smooth muscle cell elasticity, cytoskeletal remodelling and adhesion

15 March 2014

In this study, we examined the ability of vasoactive agonists to induce dynamic changes in vascular smooth muscle cell (VSMC) elasticity and adhesion, and tested the hypothesis that these events are coordinated with rapid remodelling of the cortical cytoskeleton. Real-time measurement of cell elasticity was performed with atomic force microscopy (AFM) and adhesion was assessed with AFM probes coated with fibronectin (FN). Temporal data were analysed using an Eigen-decomposition method. Elasticity in VSMCs displayed temporal oscillations with three components at approximately 0.001, 0.004 and 0.07 Hz, respectively. Similarly, adhesion displayed a similar oscillatory pattern. Angiotensin II (ANG II, 10–6 m) increased (+100%) the amplitude of the oscillations, whereas the vasodilator adenosine (ADO, 10–4 m) reduced oscillation amplitude (–30%). To test whether the oscillatory changes were related to the architectural alterations in cortical cytoskeleton, the topography of the submembranous actin cytoskeleton (100–300 nm depth) was acquired with AFM. These data were analysed to compare cortical actin fibre distribution and orientation before and after treatment with vasoactive agonists. The results showed that ANG II increased the density of stress fibres by 23%, while ADO decreased the density of the stress fibres by 45%. AFM data were supported by Western blot and confocal microscopy. Collectively, these observations indicate that VSMC cytoskeletal structure and adhesion to the extracellular matrix are dynamically altered in response to agonist stimulation. Thus, vasoactive agonists probably invoke unique mechanisms that dynamically alter the behaviour and structure of both the VSMC cytoskeleton and focal adhesions to efficiently support the normal contractile behaviour of VSMCs.

Prostaglandins induce vasodilatation of the microvasculature during muscle contraction and induce vasodilatation independent of adenosine

15 March 2014

Blood flow data from contracting muscle in humans indicates that adenosine (ADO) stimulates the production of nitric oxide (NO) and vasodilating prostaglandins (PG) to produce arteriolar vasodilatation in a redundant fashion such that when one is inhibited the other can compensate. We sought to determine whether these redundant mechanisms are employed at the microvascular level. First, we determined whether PGs were involved in active hyperaemia at the microvascular level. We stimulated four to five skeletal muscle fibres in the anaesthetized hamster cremaster preparation in situ and measured the change in diameter of 2A arterioles (maximum diameter 40 μm, third arteriolar level up from the capillaries) at a site of overlap with the stimulated muscle fibres before and after 2 min of contraction [stimulus frequencies: 4, 20 and 60 Hz at 15 contractions per minute (CPM) or contraction frequencies of 6, 15 or 60 CPM at 20 Hz; 250 ms train duration]. Muscle fibres were stimulated in the absence and presence of the phospholipase A2 inhibitor quinacrine. Further, we applied a range of concentrations of ADO (10–7–10–5 m) extraluminally, (to mimic muscle contraction) in the absence and presence of l-NAME (NO synthase inhibitor), indomethacin (INDO, cyclooxygenase inhibitor) and l-NAME + INDO and observed the response of 2A arterioles. We repeated the latter experiment on a different level of the cremaster microvasculature (1A arterioles) and on the microvasculature of a different skeletal muscle (gluteus maximus, 2A arterioles). We observed that quinacrine inhibited vasodilatation during muscle contraction at intermediate and high contraction frequencies (15 and 60 CPM). l-NAME, INDO and l-NAME + INDO were not effective at inhibiting vasodilatation induced by any concentration of ADO tested in 2A and 1A arterioles in the cremaster muscle or 2A arterioles in the gluteus maximus muscle. Our data show that PGs are involved in the vasodilatation of the microvasculature in response to muscle contraction but did not obtain evidence that extraluminal ADO causes vasodilatation through NO or PG or both. Thus, we propose that PG-induced microvascular vasodilation during exercise is independent of ADO.

Purinergic inhibitory regulation of murine detrusor muscles mediated by PDGFR{alpha}+ interstitial cells

15 March 2014

Purines induce transient contraction and prolonged relaxation of detrusor muscles. Transient contraction could be due to activation of inward currents in smooth muscle cells, but the mechanism of purinergic relaxation has not been determined. We recently reported a new class of interstitial cells in detrusor muscles and showed that these cells could be identified with antibodies against platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α (PDGFRα+ cells). The current density of small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (SK) channels in these cells is far higher (~100 times) than in smooth muscle cells. Thus, we examined purinergic receptor (P2Y) mediated SK channel activation as a mechanism for purinergic relaxation. P2Y receptors (mainly P2ry1 gene) were highly expressed in PDGFRα+ cells. Under voltage clamp conditions, ATP activated large outward currents in PDGFRα+ cells that were inhibited by blockers of SK channels. ATP also induced significant hyperpolarization under current clamp conditions. A P2Y1 agonist, MRS2365, mimicked the effects of ATP, and a P2Y1 antagonist, MRS2500, inhibited ATP-activated SK currents. Responses to ATP were largely abolished in PDGFRα+ cells of P2ry1–/– mice, and no response was elicited by MRS2365 in these cells. A P2X receptor agonist had no effect on PDGFRα+ cells but, like ATP, activated transient inward currents in smooth muscle cells (SMCs). A P2Y1 antagonist decreased nerve-evoked relaxation. These data suggest that purines activate SK currents via mainly P2Y1 receptors in PDGFRα+ cells. Our findings provide an explanation for purinergic relaxation in detrusor muscles and show that there are no discrete inhibitory nerve fibres. A dual receptive field for purines provides the basis for inhibitory neural regulation of excitability.

Consequences of peripheral chemoreflex inhibition with low-dose dopamine in humans

15 March 2014

Low-dose dopamine inhibits peripheral chemoreceptors and attenuates the hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR) in humans. However, it is unknown: (1) whether it also modulates the haemodynamic reactions to acute hypoxia, (2) whether it also modulates cardiac baroreflex sensitivity (BRS) and (3) if there is any effect of dopamine withdrawal. We performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 11 healthy male volunteers. At sea level over 2 days every subject was administered low-dose dopamine (2 μg kg–1 min–1) or saline infusion, during which we assessed both ventilatory and haemodynamic responses to acute hypoxia. Separately, we evaluated effects of initiation and withdrawal of each infusion and BRS. The initiation of dopamine infusion did not affect minute ventilation (MV) or mean blood pressure (MAP), but increased both heart rate (HR) and cardiac output. Concomitantly, it decreased systemic vascular resistance. Dopamine blunted the ventilatory, MAP and HR reactions (hypertension, tachycardia) to acute hypoxia. Dopamine attenuated cardiac BRS to falling blood pressure. Dopamine withdrawal evoked an increase in MV. The magnitude of the increment in MV due to dopamine withdrawal correlated with the size of the HVR and depended on the duration of dopamine administration. The ventilatory reaction to dopamine withdrawal constitutes a novel index of peripheral chemoreceptor function.

Purinergic signalling contributes to chemoreception in the retrotrapezoid nucleus but not the nucleus of the solitary tract or medullary raphe

15 March 2014

Several brain regions are thought to function as important sites of chemoreception including the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), medullary raphe and retrotrapezoid nucleus (RTN). In the RTN, mechanisms of chemoreception involve direct H+-mediated activation of chemosensitive neurons and indirect modulation of chemosensitive neurons by purinergic signalling. Evidence suggests that RTN astrocytes are the source of CO2-evoked ATP release. However, it is not clear whether purinergic signalling also influences CO2/H+ responsiveness of other putative chemoreceptors. The goals of this study are to determine if CO2/H+-sensitive neurons in the NTS and medullary raphe respond to ATP, and whether purinergic signalling in these regions influences CO2 responsiveness in vitro and in vivo. In brain slices, cell-attached recordings of membrane potential show that CO2/H+-sensitive NTS neurons are activated by focal ATP application; however, purinergic P2-receptor blockade did not affect their CO2/H+ responsiveness. CO2/H+-sensitive raphe neurons were unaffected by ATP or P2-receptor blockade. In vivo, ATP injection into the NTS increased cardiorespiratory activity; however, injection of a P2-receptor blocker into this region had no effect on baseline breathing or CO2/H+ responsiveness. Injections of ATP or a P2-receptor blocker into the medullary raphe had no effect on cardiorespiratory activity or the chemoreflex. As a positive control we confirmed that ATP injection into the RTN increased breathing and blood pressure by a P2-receptor-dependent mechanism. These results suggest that purinergic signalling is a unique feature of RTN chemoreception.