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Respir Physiol. 2002 Jan;129(3):289-96.

CO(2)-induced c-Fos expression in hypothalamic vasopressin containing neurons.

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Specialized Neuroscience Research Program, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Howard University College of Medicine, 520 W St., NW, Washington, DC 20059, USA.


Following exposure of anesthetized and unanesthetized rats to hypercapnic stress, arginine vasopressin (AVP)-containing neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic (SON) nuclei were examined for expression of the c-fos gene encoded protein (c-Fos). In addition, we determined whether AVP-containing PVN neurons activated by hypercapnia project to phrenic nuclei. In adult control rats, only scant c-Fos-like immunoreactive neurons were observed within the hypothalamic nuclei. A marked increase in c-Fos positive cells was induced after 2 h of breathing a gas mixture with elevated CO(2) (5% CO(2), 21% O(2) and 74% N(2), or 1 h following breathing of 12% CO(2,) 21% O(2,) and 67% N(2)). Colocalization studies of AVP and c-Fos protein revealed that in the PVN, 75% of AVP-containing cells expressed c-Fos immunoreactivity. c-Fos and AVP were coexpressed in 60% of SON neurons in anesthetized rats. In addition, retrograde labeling studies with cholera toxin b subunit (CTb) revealed that a subpopulation of PVN cells (15%) that project to phrenic nuclei are activated by hypercapnia, as indicated by c-Fos expression. These results indicate that (i) PVN and SON AVP-containing neurons are part of the neuronal networks that react to hypercapnic exposure; and (ii) a subset of CO(2) reactive PVN cells innervate phrenic nuclei.

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