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Hypertension. 2007 Aug;50(2):368-76. Epub 2007 Jun 18.

5-Hydroxytryptamine 1A/7 and 4alpha receptors differentially prevent opioid-induced inhibition of brain stem cardiorespiratory function.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, George Washington University, 2300 Eye St, NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA.


Opioids evoke respiratory depression, bradycardia, and reduced respiratory sinus arrhythmia, whereas serotonin (5-HT) agonists stimulate respiration and cardiorespiratory interactions. This study tested whether serotonin agonists can prevent the inhibitory effects of opioids on cardiorespiratory function. Spontaneous and rhythmic inspiratory-related activity and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) neurotransmission to premotor parasympathetic cardioinhibitory neurons in the nucleus ambiguus were recorded simultaneously in an in vitro thick slice preparation. The mu-opioid agonist fentanyl inhibited respiratory frequency. The 5-hydroxytryptamine 1A/7 receptor agonist 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin increased respiratory frequency by itself and also prevented the fentanyl-induced respiratory depression. The 5-hydroxytryptamine 4alpha agonist BIMU-8 did not by itself change inspiratory activity but prevented the mu-opioid-mediated respiratory depression. Both spontaneous and inspiratory-evoked GABAergic neurotransmission to cardiac vagal neurons were inhibited by fentanyl. 8-Hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin inhibited spontaneous but not inspiratory-evoked GABAergic activity to parasympathetic cardiac neurons. However, 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin differentially altered the opioid-mediated depression of inspiratory-evoked GABAergic activity but did not change the opioid-induced reduction in spontaneous GABAergic neurotransmission. In contrast, BIMU-8 did not alter GABAergic neurotransmission to cardiac vagal neurons by itself but prevented the fentanyl depression of both spontaneous and inspiratory-elicited GABAergic neurotransmission to cardiac vagal neurons. In the presence of tetrodotoxin, the inhibition of GABAergic inhibitory postsynaptic currents with fentanyl is prevented by coapplication of BIMU-8, indicating that BIMU-8 acts at presynaptic GABAergic terminals to prevent fentanyl-induced depression. These results suggest that activation of 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors, particularly 5-hydroxytryptamine 4alpha agonists, may be a useful therapeutic approach in preventing opioid-evoked cardiorespiratory depression.

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