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J Physiol. 2009 Nov 15;587(Pt 22):5469-81. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.176982. Epub 2009 Oct 5.

Episodic spinal serotonin receptor activation elicits long-lasting phrenic motor facilitation by an NADPH oxidase-dependent mechanism.

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  • 1Department of Comparative Biosciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF) is a serotonin (5-HT)-dependent augmentation of phrenic motor output induced by acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH). AIH-induced pLTF requires spinal NADPH oxidase activity and reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation. Since 5-HT receptor activation stimulates NADPH oxidase activity in some cell types, we tested the hypothesis that episodic spinal 5-HT receptor activation (without AIH) is sufficient to elicit an NADPH oxidase-dependent facilitation of phrenic motor output (pMF). In anaesthetised, artificially ventilated adult male rats, episodic intrathecal 5-HT injections (3 x 6 microl injections at 5 min intervals) into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) near cervical spinal segments containing the phrenic motor nucleus elicited a progressive increase in integrated phrenic nerve burst amplitude (i.e. pMF) lasting at least 60 min post-5-HT administration. Hypoglossal (XII) nerve activity was unaffected, suggesting that effective doses of 5-HT did not reach the brainstem. A single 5-HT injection was without effect. 5-HT-induced pMF was dose dependent, but exhibited a bell-shaped dose-response curve. Activation of different 5-HT receptor subtypes, specifically 5-HT(2) versus 5-HT(7) receptors, may underlie the bell-shaped dose-response curve via a mechanism of 'cross-talk' inhibition. Pre-treatment with NADPH oxidase inhibitors, apocynin or diphenylenodium (DPI), blocked 5-HT induced pMF. Thus, episodic spinal 5-HT receptor activation is sufficient to elicit pMF by an NADPH oxidase-dependent mechanism, suggesting common mechanisms of ROS formation with AIH-induced pLTF. An understanding of the mechanisms giving rise to AIH-induced pLTF and 5-HT induced pMF may inspire novel therapeutic strategies for respiratory insufficiency in diverse conditions, such as sleep apnoea, cervical spinal injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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