Generation and transmission of respiratory oscillations in medullary slices: role of excitatory amino acids

G. D. Funk, J. C. Smith, J. L. Feldman


1. The involvement of excitatory amino acid (EAA) receptors in the generation of respiratory rhythm and transmission of inspiratory drive to hypoglossal (XII) motoneurons was examined in an in vitro neonatal rat medullary slice preparation. Slices generated rhythmic inspiratory activity in XII nerves. The role of EAAs in rhythm generation was determined by analyzing perturbations of respiratory network activity after bath application of EAA receptor antagonists or local microinjection of antagonists into the main column of respiratory neurons in the ventrolateral medulla (ventral respiratory group), particularly in the pre-Botzinger complex (pre-BotC). The involvement of EAAs in drive transmission to XII motoneurons was examined by recording perturbations in XII nerve discharge or motoneuron synaptic inputs after microinjection of EAA receptor antagonists into either the XII motor nuclei or sites in the ventrolateral medulla containing interneurons of the drive transmission circuit. 2. Block of non-N-methyl-D-aspartate (non-NMDA) receptors by bath application of 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) reversibly reduced XII nerve burst frequency and amplitude in a concentration-dependent manner, completely blocking respiratory motor output at concentrations > 4 microM. Activation of 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyric acid (AP-4)-sensitive receptors with D,L AP-4 reduced XII nerve burst amplitude by 30% but did not alter burst frequency. Block of NMDA receptor channels by bath application of (+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d] cyclohepten-5,10-iminemaleate (MK-801) did not perturb the frequency or amplitude of motor output. Inhibition of EAA uptake in the slices by bath application of dihydrokainic acid reversibly increased the frequency and amplitude of XII motor discharge. 3. Block of non-NMDA receptors at multiple sites along the main column of respiratory neurons in the ventrolateral medulla, including the pre-BotC, by unilateral microinjection of CNQX produced a dose-dependent, bilateral reduction in XII nerve burst amplitude without substantial perturbations of the frequency of respiratory oscillations. Block of non-NMDA receptors within the pre-BotC at sites ventral to amplitude altering sites produced a reduction in frequency and ultimately bilateral block of respiratory network oscillations. 4. Non-NMDA receptor block within the XII motor nucleus by unilateral microinjection of CNQX produced a dose-dependent reduction in ipsilateral XII nerve discharge amplitude without perturbing the frequency of respiratory oscillations. Perturbations of contralateral XII nerve burst amplitude were significantly smaller. NMDA channel block within the XII motor nucleus did not affect inspiratory burst amplitude, whereas activation of AP-4 receptors caused a 30% reduction in amplitude.