Sodium and calcium current-mediated pacemaker neurons and respiratory rhythm generation.

Systems Neurobiology Laboratory, Department of Neurobiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California 90095-1763, USA.
Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 02/2005; 25(2):446-53. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2237-04.2005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The breathing motor pattern in mammals originates in brainstem networks. Whether pacemaker neurons play an obligatory role remains a key unanswered question. We performed whole-cell recordings in the preBotzinger Complex in slice preparations from neonatal rodents and tested for pacemaker activity. We observed persistent Na+ current (I(NaP))-mediated bursting in approximately 5% of inspiratory neurons in postnatal day 0 (P0)-P5 and in P8-P10 slices. I(NaP)-mediated bursting was voltage dependent and blocked by 20 mum riluzole (RIL). We found Ca2+ current (I(Ca))-dependent bursting in 7.5% of inspiratory neurons in P8-P10 slices, but in P0-P5 slices these cells were exceedingly rare (0.6%). This bursting was voltage independent and blocked by 100 microm Cd2+ or flufenamic acid (FFA) (10-200 microm), which suggests that a Ca2+-activated inward cationic current (I(CAN)) underlies burst generation. These data substantiate our observation that P0-P5 slices exposed to RIL contain few (if any) pacemaker neurons, yet maintain respiratory rhythm. We also show that 20 nm TTX or coapplication of 20 microm RIL + FFA (100-200 microm) stops the respiratory rhythm, but that adding 2 mum substance P restarts it. We conclude that I(NaP) and I(CAN) enhance neuronal excitability and promote rhythmogenesis, even if their magnitude is insufficient to support bursting-pacemaker activity in individual neurons. When I(NaP) and I(CAN) are removed pharmacologically, the rhythm can be maintained by boosting neural excitability, which is inconsistent with a pacemaker-essential mechanism of respiratory rhythmogenesis by the preBotzinger complex.

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