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Respir Physiol. 2001 Dec;129(1-2):191-209.

Monoaminergic neurons, chemosensation and arousal.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Howard University College of Medicine, 520 W Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20059, USA.


In recent years, immense progress has been made in understanding central chemosensitivity at the cellular and functional levels. Combining molecular biological techniques (early gene expression as an index of cell activation) with neurotransmitter immunohistochemistry, new information has been generated related to neurochemical coding in chemosensory cells. We found that CO(2) exposure leads to activation of discrete cell groups along the neuraxis, including subsets of cells belonging to monoaminergic cells, noradrenaline-, serotonin-, and histamine-containing neurons. In part, they may play a modulatory role in the respiratory response to hypercapnia that could be related to their behavioral state control function. Activation of monoaminergic neurons by an increase in CO(2)/H(+) could facilitate respiratory related motor discharge, particularly activity of upper airway dilating muscles. In addition, these neurons coordinate sympathetic and parasympathetic tone to visceral organs, and participate in adjustments of blood flow with the level of motor activity. Any deficit in CO(2) chemosensitivity of a network composed of inter-related monoaminergic nuclei might lead to disfacilitation of motor outputs and to failure of neuroendocrine and homeostatic responses to life-threatening challenges (e.g. asphyxia) during sleep.

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