Identification of two markers of neurons in the pre- Bötzinger complex (pre-BötC), the neurokinin 1 receptor (NK1R) and somatostatin (Sst) peptide, has been of great utility in understanding the essential role of the pre-BötC in breathing. Recently, the transcription factor dbx1 was identified as a critical, but transient, determinant of glutamatergic pre-BötC neurons. Here, to identify additional markers, we constructed and screened a single-cell subtractive cDNA library from pre-BötC inspiratory neurons. We identified the glycoprotein reelin as a potentially useful marker, because it is expressed in distinct populations of pre-BötC and inspiratory bulbospinal ventral respiratory group (ibsVRG) neurons. Reelin ibsVRG neurons were larger (27.1 ± 3.8 µm in diameter) and located more caudally (>12.8 mm caudal to Bregma) than reelin pre-BötC neurons (15.5 ± 2.4 µm in diameter, <12.8 mm rostral to Bregma). Pre-BötC reelin neurons coexpress NK1R and Sst. Reelin neurons were also found in the parahypoglossal and dorsal parafacial regions, pontine respiratory group, and ventromedial medulla. Reelin-deficient (Reeler) mice exhibited impaired respones to hypoxia compared with littermate controls. We suggest that reelin is a useful molecular marker for pre-BötC neurons in adult rodents and may play a functional role in pre- BötC microcircuits.
breathing; hypoxia; reelin; Ahi1; latexin; PRMC1
Postsynaptic inhibition is a key element of neural circuits underlying behavior, with 20-50% of all mammalian (non-granule) neurons considered inhibitory. For rhythmic movements in mammals, e.g., walking, swimming, suckling, chewing, breathing, inhibition is often hypothesized to play an essential rhythmogenic role. Here we study the role of fast synaptic inhibitory neurotransmission in the generation of breathing pattern by blocking GABAA and glycine receptors in the preBötzinger Complex (preBötC), a site essential for generation of normal breathing pattern, and in the neighboring Bötzinger Complex (BötC). The breathing rhythm continued following this blockade, but the lung inflation-induced Breuer-Hering inspiratory-inhibitory reflex was suppressed. The antagonists were efficacious, as this blockade abolished the profound effects of the exogenously applied GABAA receptor agonist muscimol or glycine, either of which under control conditions stopped breathing in vagus-intact or vagotomized, anesthetized, spontaneously breathing adult rats. In vagotomized rats, GABAAergic and glycinergic antagonists had little, if any, effect on rhythm. The effect in vagus intact rats was to slow the rhythm to a pace equivalent to that seen after suppression of the aforementioned Breuer-Hering inflation reflex. We conclude that postsynaptic inhibition within the preBötC and BötC is not essential for generation of normal respiratory rhythm in intact mammals. We suggest the primary role of inhibition is in shaping the pattern of respiratory motor output, assuring its stability, and in mediating reflex or volitional apnea, but not in the generation of rhythm per se.
breathing; respiratory rhythm; inhibition; preBötzinger Complex; Bötzinger Complex; Breuer-Hering reflex
During rhythmic movements, central pattern generators (CPGs) trigger bursts of motor activity with precise timing. However, the number of neurons that must be activated within CPGs to generate motor output is unknown. In the mammalian breathing rhythm, a fundamentally important motor behavior, the preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) produces synchronous population-wide bursts of activity to control inspiratory movements. We probed mechanisms underlying inspiratory burst generation in the preBötC using holographic photolysis of caged glutamate in medullary slices from neonatal mice. With stimulation parameters determined to confine photoactivation to targeted neurons, simultaneous excitation of 4–9 targeted neurons could initiate ectopic, endogenous-like bursts with delays averaging 255 ms, placing a critical and novel boundary condition on the microcircuit undelying respiratory rhythmogenesis.
Rationale: In adult rats, bilateral ablation of pre-Bötzinger complex (preBötC) neurokinin 1–expressing (NK1R) neurons leads to a progressive and irreversible disruption in breathing pattern, initially during sleep, eventually resulting in an ataxic breathing pattern during wakefulness.
Objectives: Here we determine whether ablation of fewer preBötC NK1R neurons leads to a persistent pattern of disordered breathing during sleep but not during wakefulness.
Methods: Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 12) were instrumented to record diaphragmatic, abdominal, and neck EMG, and EEG. Fourteen days later, a second surgery was performed to stereotaxically microinject into the preBötC on one side the toxin saporin conjugated to substance P (SP-SAP), which selectively ablates NK1R neurons.
Measurements and Main Results: Postinjection, rats were monitored within a plethysmograph until they were killed (Days 21–51). At Days 6–9 post–unilateral SP-SAP injection, respiratory pattern during sleep, particularly REM sleep, became increasingly disordered, characterized by an increase in frequency of central sleep apnea and hypopneas (36.8 ± 7.4 episodes/h of REM vs. 6 ± 2.0 episodes/h in preinjection controls; P < 0.05), whereas breathing during resting wakefulness remained stable. Unlike bilateral SP-SAP–injected rats, an ataxic breathing pattern did not develop during wakefulness. Rats that were monitored up to 51 days post–SP-SAP injection continued to have sleep-disordered breathing; breathing during wakefulness remained relatively stable. Histologic analysis of the ventrolateral medulla confirmed that NK1R neurons within the preBötC on the injected but not on the contralateral side of the medulla were ablated.
Conclusions: Gradual loss of preBötC NK1R neurons may be an underlying factor of sleep-disordered breathing, in particular of central sleep apnea.
respiratory control; apnea; ventrolateral medulla; saporin; neurokinin 1
The preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) contains neural microcircuitry essential for normal respiratory rhythm generation in rodents. A subpopulation of preBötC neurons expresses somatostatin, a neuropeptide with a modulatory action on breathing. Acute silencing of a subpopulation of preBötC neurons transfected by a virus driving protein expression under the somatostatin promoter results in persistent apnea in awake adult rats. Given the profound effect of silencing these neurons, their projections are of interest. We used an adeno-associated virus to overexpress enhanced green fluorescent protein driven by the somatostatin promoter in preBötC neurons to label their axons and terminal fields. These neurons send brainstem projections to: 1) contralateral preBötC; 2) ipsi- and contralateral Bötzinger Complex; 3) ventral respiratory column caudal to preBötC; 4) parafacial respiratory group / retrotrapezoid nucleus; 5) parahypoglossal nucleus/nucleus of the solitary tract; 6) parabrachial/Kölliker-Fuse nuclei; and 7) periaqueductal gray. We did not find major projections to either cerebellum or spinal cord. We conclude that there are widespread projections from preBötC somatostatin-expressing neurons specifically targeted to brainstem regions implicated in control of breathing, and provide a network basis for the profound effects and the essential role of the preBötC in breathing.
preBötzinger Complex; breathing; respiratory rhythm; AAV2
Acetylcholine and nicotine can modulate respiratory patterns by acting on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in the preBötzinger complex (preBötC). To further explore the molecular composition of these nAChRs, we studied a knock-in mouse strain with a leucine-to-alanine mutation in the M2 pore-lining region (L9′A) of the nAChR α4 subunit; this mutation renders α4-containing receptors hypersensitive to agonists. We recorded respiratory-related rhythmic motor activity from hypoglossal nerve (XIIn) and patch-clamped preBötC inspiratory neurons in an in vitro medullary slice preparation from neonatal mice. Nicotine affected respiratory rhythm at concentrations ~100-fold lower in the homozygous L9′A knock-in mice compared with wild-type mice. Bath application of 5 nm nicotine increased the excitability of preBötC inspiratory neurons, increased respiratory frequency, and induced tonic/seizure-like activities in XIIn in L9′A mice, effects similar to those induced by 1 μm nicotine in wild-type mice. In L9′A mice, microinjection of low nanomolar concentrations of nicotine into the preBötC increased respiratory frequency, whereas injection into the ipsilateral hypoglossal (XII) nucleus induced tonic/seizure-like activity. The α4*-selective nAChR antagonist dihydro-β-erythroidine produced opposite effects and blocked the nicotinic responses. These data, showing that nAChRs in the preBötC and XII nucleus in L9'A mice are hypersensitive to nicotine and endogenous ACh, suggest that functional α4* nAChRs are present in the preBötC. They mediate cholinergic/nicotinic modulation of the excitability of preBötC inspiratory neurons and of respiratory rhythm. Furthermore, functional α4* nAChRs are present in XII nucleus and mediate cholinergic/nicotinic modulation of tonic activity in XIIn.
L9′A knock-in mice; α4 subunit; preBötzinger complex; inspiratory neurons; hypoglossal nucleus; nicotine
Neuronal network behavior results from a combination of the dynamics of individual neurons and the connectivity of the network that links them together. We study a simplified model, based on the proposal of Feldman and Del Negro (FDN) [Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 7, 232 (2006)], of the preBötzinger Complex, a small neuronal network that participates in the control of the mammalian breathing rhythm through periodic firing bursts. The dynamics of this randomly connected network of identical excitatory neurons differ from those of a uniformly connected one. Specifically, network connectivity determines the identity of emergent leader neurons that trigger the firing bursts. When neuronal desensitization is controlled by the number of input signals to the neurons (as proposed by FDN), the network's collective desensitization—required for successful burst termination—is mediated by k -core clusters of neurons.
Breathing, chewing and walking are critical life-sustaining behaviors in mammals that consist essentially of simple rhythmic movements. Breathing movements in particular involve the diaphragm, thorax, and airways but emanate from a network in the lower brain stem. This network can be studied in reduced preparations in vitro and using simplified mathematical models that make testable predictions. An iterative approach that employs both in vitro and in silico models has ruled out canonical mechanisms for respiratory rhythm that involve reciprocal inhibition and pacemaker properties. We present an alternative model in which emergent network properties play the key rhythmogenic role. Specifically, we show evidence that synaptically activated burst-generating conductances – which are only available in the context of network activity – engender robust periodic bursts in respiratory neurons. Because the cellular burst-generating mechanism is linked to network synaptic drive we dub this type of system a group pacemaker.
preBötzinger Complex; pre-Bötzinger Complex; central pattern generator (CPG); metabotropic glutamate receptors; calcium-activated nonspecific cation current; mathematical models; emergent network properties; breathing
The location of neurons generating the rhythm of breathing in mammals is unknown. By microsection of the neonatal rat brainstem in vitro, a limited region of the ventral medulla (the pre-Bötzinger Complex) that contains neurons essential for rhythmogenesis was identified. Rhythm generation was eliminated by removal of only this region. Medullary slices containing the pre-Bötzinger Complex generated respiratory-related oscillations similar to those generated by the whole brainstem in vitro, and neurons with voltage-dependent pacemaker-like properties were identified in this region. Thus, the respiratory rhythm in the mammalian neonatal nervous system may result from a population of conditional bursting pacemaker neurons in the pre-Bötzinger Complex.
Current consensus holds that a single medullary network generates respiratory rhythm in mammals. Pre-Bötzinger Complex inspiratory (I) neurons, isolated in transverse slices, and preinspiratory (pre-I) neurons, found only in more intact en bloc preparations and in vivo, are each proposed as necessary for rhythm generation. Opioids slow I, but not pre-I, neuronal burst periods. In slices, opioids gradually lengthened respiratory periods, whereas in more intact preparations, periods jumped nondeterministically to integer multiples of the control period (quantal slowing). These findings suggest that opioid-induced quantal slowing results from transmission failure of rhythmic drive from pre-I neurons to preBötC I networks, depressed below threshold for spontaneous rhythmic activity. Thus, both I (in the slice), and pre-I neurons are sufficient for respiratory rhythmogenesis.
Data from perinatal and juvenile rodents support our hypothesis that the preBötzinger complex generates inspiratory rhythm and the retrotrapezoid nucleus–parafacial respiratory group (RTN/pFRG) generates active expiration (AE). Although the role of the RTN/pFRG in adulthood is disputed, we hypothesized that its rhythmogenicity persists but is typically silenced by synaptic inhibition. We show in adult anesthetized rats that local pharmacological disinhibition or optogenetic excitation of the RTN/pFRG can generate AE and transforms previously silent RTN/pFRG neurons into rhythmically active cells whose firing is correlated with late-phase active expiration. Brief excitatory stimuli also reset the respiratory rhythm, indicating strong coupling of AE to inspiration. The AE network location in adult rats overlaps with the perinatal pFRG and appears lateral to the chemosensitive region of adult RTN. We suggest that (1) the RTN/pFRG contains a conditional oscillator that generates AE, and (2) at rest and in anesthesia, synaptic inhibition of RTN/pFRG suppresses AE.
The preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) is essential for normal respiratory rhythm generation in rodents, for which the underlying mechanisms remain unknown. Excitatory preBötC pacemaker neurons are proposed to be necessary for rhythm generation. Here we report the presence of a population of preBötC glycinergic pacemaker neurons. We used rhythmic in vitro transverse slice preparations from transgenic mice where neurons expressing the glycine transporter 2 (GlyT2) gene co-express enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). We combined epifluorescence and whole-cell patch-clamp recording to study preBötC EGFP-labeled, i.e., glycinergic, inspiratory-modulated neurons with pacemaker properties. We defined glycinergic pacemaker neurons as those preBötC EGFP neurons that exhibited: 1) ectopic bursting in rhythmic slices when depolarized during their normally silent period, and; 2) bursting when depolarized in non-rhythmic slices (following AMPA receptor blockade). 42% of EGFP-labeled neurons were inspiratory (n=48 of 115), of which 23% (n=11 of 48 inspiratory; 10% of the total recorded) were pacemakers. We conclude that there is a population of preBötC inspiratory-modulated glycinergic, presumably inhibitory, pacemaker neurons that constitute a substantial fraction of all preBötC pacemaker neurons. These findings challenge contemporary models for respiratory rhythmogenesis that assume the excitatory nature of preBötC pacemaker neurons. Testable and non-trivial predictions of the functional role of excitatory and inhibitory pacemaker neurons need to be proposed and the necessary experiments performed.
respiratory rhythm generation; breathing; GlyT2-EGFP mice; glycine; inhibition; Pacemaker
Ablation of preBötzinger complex (preBötC) neurons, critical for respiratory rhythm generation, resulted in a progressive, increasingly severe disruption of respiratory pattern, initially during sleep and then also during wakefulness in adult rats. Sleep-disordered breathing is highly prevalent in elderly humans and in some patients with neurodegenerative disease. We propose that sleep-disordered breathing results from loss of preBötC neurons and could underlie death during sleep in these populations.
Recent experiments in vivo and in vitro have advanced our understanding of the sites and mechanisms involved in mammalian respiratory rhythm generation. Here we evaluate and interpret the new evidence for two separate brainstem respiratory oscillators and for the essential role of emergent network properties in rhythm generation. Lesion studies suggest that respiratory cell death might explain morbidity and mortality associated with neurodegenerative disorders and ageing.
Breathing relies on a respiratory rhythm generator. A study characterizes an early emerging oscillatory group of Phox2b-expressing parafacial cells that entrain and couple with the preBötzinger Complex at the onset of fetal breathing.
Breathing is a vital behavior that is particularly amenable to experimental investigation. We review recent progress on three problems of broad interest. (i) Where and how is respiratory rhythm generated? The preBötzinger Complex is a critical site, whereas pacemaker neurons may not be essential. The possibility that coupled oscillators are involved is considered. (ii) What are the mechanisms that underlie the plasticity necessary for adaptive changes in breathing? Serotonin-dependent long-term facilitation following intermittent hypoxia is an important example of such plasticity, and a model that can account for this adaptive behavior is discussed. (iii) Where and how are the regulated variables CO2 and pH sensed? These sensors are essential if breathing is to be appropriate for metabolism. Neurons with appropriate chemosensitivity are spread throughout the brainstem; their individual properties and collective role are just beginning to be understood.
preBötzinger; pacemaker; neurokinin; serotonin; raphe
Neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) and μ-opioid receptor (μOR) agonists affected respiratory rhythm when injected directly into the preBötzinger Complex (preBötC), the hypothesized site for respiratory rhythmogenesis in mammals. These effects were mediated by actions on preBötC rhythmogenic neurons. The distribution of NK1R+ neurons anatomically defined the preBötC. Type 1 neurons in the preBötC, which have rhythmogenic properties, expressed both NK1Rs and μORs, whereas type 2 neurons expressed only NK1Rs. These findings suggest that the preBötC is a definable anatomic structure with unique physiological function and that a subpopulation of neurons expressing both NK1Rs and μORs generate respiratory rhythm and modulate respiratory frequency.
The normal breathing rhythm in mammals is hypothesized to be generated by neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R)-expressing neurons in the preBötzinger complex (preBötC), a medullary region proposed to contain the kernel of the circuits generating respiration. If this hypothesis is correct, then complete destruction of preBötC NK1R neurons should severely perturb and perhaps even fatally arrest breathing. Here we show that specific and near complete bilateral (but not unilateral) destruction of preBötC NK1R neurons results in both an ataxic breathing pattern with markedly altered blood gases and pH, and pathological responses to challenges such as hyperoxia, hypoxia and anesthesia. Thus, these ~600 neurons seem necessary for the generation of normal breathing in rats.
Delineating neurons that underlie complex behaviors is of fundamental interest. Using adeno-associated virus 2, we expressed the Drosophila allatostatin receptor in somatostatin (Sst)-expressing neurons in the preBötzinger Complex (preBötC). Rapid silencing of these neurons in awake rats induced a persistent apnea without any respiratory movements to rescue their breathing. We hypothesize that breathing requires preBötC Sst neurons and that their sudden depression can lead to serious, even fatal, respiratory failure.
High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is widely used to determine neurotransmitter concentrations in the central nervous system (CNS). Finding the optimal methods to sample from CNS tissue poses a challenge for neuroscientists. Here we describe a method that allows assay of neurotransmitters (or other chemicals) in small regions (down to 180 μm in diameter) in in vitro preparations concurrently with electrophysiological recordings. The efficiency for measuring small amounts of chemicals is enhanced by a sample collecting pipette with filter paper at the tip that makes close contact with the target region in CNS tissue. With a wire plunger in the calibrated pipette controlled by a microsyringe pump, there is virtually no dead volume. Samples in a volume of 10 μl (taken, e.g., at 2 μL/min over 5 minutes) can be injected into a HPLC machine with microbore columns. We demonstrate the effectiveness of this method by measuring acetylcholine (ACh) in the ventral horn and its surrounding areas of the spinal cord in en bloc brainstem-spinal cord preparations. In control conditions, endogenous ACh levels in these regions were detectable. Application of neostigmine (an inhibitor of acetylcholinesterases (AChEs)) increased ACh concentrations, and at the same time, induced tonic/seizure-like activity in efferent motor output recorded from cervical ventral nerve roots. Higher ACh concentrations in the ventral horn were differentiated from nearby regions: the lateral and midline aspects of the ventral spinal cord. In addition, ACh in the preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) and the hypoglossal nucleus in medullary slice preparations can also be measured. Our results indicate that the method proposed in this study can be used to measure neurotransmitters in small and localized CNS regions. Correlation between changes in neurotransmitters in target regions and the neuronal activities can be revealed in vitro. Our data also suggest that there is endogenous ACh release in spinal ventral motor columns at 4th cervical (C4) level that regulates the respiratory-related motor activity.
Neurotransmitter measurement; HPLC; Acetylcholine; ventral motor columns of the spinal cord; preBötzinger Complex; brain slice; in vitro; respiratory modulation