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Baroreceptor inhibition of the locus coeruleus noradrenergic neurons

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DOI: 10.1016/0306-4522(94)90440-5


Abstract The locus coeruleus is involved in the regulation of blood pressure. The present study was undertaken to address the question of how the blood pressure, in turn, changes the activity of the locus coeruleus neurons via the action of baroreceptors. In chloralose- and urethane-anesthetized rats, the central cut end of the aortic depressor nerve, which does not contain chemoreceptor afferents in this species, was stimulated electrically to excite baroreceptor afferents after bilateral vagotomy and sectioning of the carotid sinus nerve. Single train-pulse stimulation of the aortic depressor nerve provoked the inhibition of ongoing activity in 48% of locus coeruleus neurons tested, but 30% of them responded by excitation with subsequent inhibition. However, when the train-pulse stimulation was repeated with a frequency of 5 Hz, which is close to that of the heartbeat in the rat, all neurons were markedly inhibited. Another series of experiments was conducted in vagotomized and carotid sinus nerve-sectioned rats with intact aortic depressor nerves. When blood pressure was elevated by an intravenous injection of a pressor agent, methoxamine or angiotensin II, or by rapid blood loading, ongoing activities of all locus coeruleus neurons tested were suppressed. In contrast, intravenously injected nitroprusside, a depressor agent, increased the activity of locus coeruleus neurons. In rats with all nerves preserved, rapid blood loading markedly inhibited the activity of these neurons. Such inhibition was partially but significantly attenuated by bilateral sectioning of the aortic depressor nerves. It is concluded that activation of aortic baroreceptors provokes inhibitory or excitatory-inhibitory response in locus coeruleus neurons; phasic activation of the baroreceptor afferents with repetitive train-pulse stimulations at a frequency close to that of the heartbeat produces only inhibition, suggesting that, under natural conditions, the locus coeruleus neurons are tonically inhibited by ongoing input from arterial baroreceptors.

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