Journal of Neurophysiology

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Central chemoreceptor modulation of breathing via multipath tuning in medullary ventrolateral respiratory column circuits

Mackenzie M. Ott, Sarah C. Nuding, Lauren S. Segers, Russell O'Connor, Kendall F. Morris, Bruce G. Lindsey


Ventrolateral respiratory column (VRC) circuits that modulate breathing in response to changes in central chemoreceptor drive are incompletely understood. We employed multielectrode arrays and spike train correlation methods to test predictions of the hypothesis that pre-Bötzinger complex (pre-BötC) and retrotrapezoid nucleus/parafacial (RTN-pF) circuits cooperate in chemoreceptor-evoked tuning of ventral respiratory group (VRG) inspiratory neurons. Central chemoreceptors were selectively stimulated by injections of CO2-saturated saline into the vertebral artery in seven decerebrate, vagotomized, neuromuscularly blocked, and artificially ventilated cats. Among sampled neurons in the Bötzinger complex (BötC)-to-VRG region, 70% (161 of 231) had a significant change in firing rate after chemoreceptor stimulation, as did 70% (101 of 144) of the RTN-pF neurons. Other responsive neurons (24 BötC-VRG; 11 RTN-pF) had a change in the depth of respiratory modulation without a significant change in average firing rate. Seventy BötC-VRG chemoresponsive neurons triggered 189 offset-feature correlograms (96 peaks; 93 troughs) with at least one responsive BötC-VRG cell. Functional input from at least one RTN-pF cell could be inferred for 45 BötC-VRG neurons (19%). Eleven RTN-pF cells were correlated with more than one BötC-VRG target neuron, providing evidence for divergent connectivity. Thirty-seven RTN-pF neurons, 24 of which were chemoresponsive, were correlated with at least one chemoresponsive BötC-VRG neuron. Correlation linkage maps and spike-triggered averages of phrenic nerve signals suggest transmission of chemoreceptor drive via a multipath network architecture: RTN-pF modulation of pre-BötC-VRG rostral-to-caudal excitatory inspiratory neuron chains is tuned by feedforward and recurrent inhibition from other inspiratory neurons and from “tonic” expiratory neurons.

  • cross-correlation
  • inspiratory and expiratory neurons
  • pre-Bötzinger complex
  • respiratory network
  • spike train
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