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Localization and properties of respiratory neurons in the rostral pons of the newborn rat

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.03.049
  • Rostral Pons
  • Pneumotaxic Center
  • Respiratory Neuron
  • Newborn Rat
  • Optical Recording
  • Kölliker-Fuse Nucleus


Abstract The distribution and discharge pattern of respiratory neurons in the ‘pneumotaxic center’ of the rostral pons in the rat has remained unknown. We performed optical recordings and whole-cell patch clamp recordings to clarify respiratory neuron activity in the rostral pons of a brainstem-spinal cord preparation from a newborn rat. Inspiratory nerve activity was recorded in the 4th cervical nerve and used as a trigger signal for optical recordings. Respiratory neuron activity was detected in the limited region of the rostral-lateral pons. The main active region was presumed to be primarily the Kölliker-Fuse nucleus. The location of respiratory neurons was further confirmed by Lucifer Yellow staining after conducting whole-cell recordings. From a membrane potential analysis of the respiratory neurons in the rostral pons, the respiratory neurons were divided into four types: inspiratory neuron (71.9%), pre-inspiratory neuron (5.3%), post-inspiratory neuron (19.3%), and expiratory neuron (3.5%). A noticeable difference between pontine and medullary respiratory neurons was that post-inspiratory neurons were more frequently encountered in the pons. Application of a μ-opioid agonist, [ d-Ala2, N-Me-Phe4, Gly5-ol]-enkephalin, transformed the burst pattern of post-inspiratory neurons into that of pre-inspiratory neurons. The electrical stimulation of the sensory root of the trigeminal nerve induced three types of responses in 85% of pontine respiratory neurons: inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (42.7%), excitatory postsynaptic potentials (37.7%) and no response (15.1%). Our findings provide the first evidence in the rat for the presence of respiratory neurons in the rostral pons, with localization in the lateral region approximately overlapping with the Kölliker-Fuse nucleus.

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