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J Physiol. 2010 Feb 15;588(Pt 4):725-40. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.184580. Epub 2010 Jan 5.

Increased vasopressin transmission from the paraventricular nucleus to the rostral medulla augments cardiorespiratory outflow in chronic intermittent hypoxia-conditioned rats.

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Department of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106-6010, USA.


A co-morbidity of sleep apnoea is hypertension associated with elevated sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) which may result from conditioning to chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH). Our hypothesis is that SNA depends on input to the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) from neurons in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) that release arginine vasopressin (AVP) and specifically, that increased SNA evoked by CIH depends on this excitatory input. In two sets of neuroanatomical experiments, we determined if AVP neurons project from the PVN to the RVLM and if arginine vasopressin (V(1A)) receptor expression increases in the RVLM after CIH conditioning (8 h per day for 10 days). In the first set, cholera toxin beta subunit (CT-beta) was microinjected into the RVLM to retrogradely label the PVN neurons. Immunohistochemical staining demonstrated that 14.6% of CT-beta-labelled PVN neurons were double-labelled with AVP. In the second set, sections of the medulla were immunolabelled for V(1A) receptors, and the V(1A) receptor-expressing cell count was significantly greater in the RVLM (P < 0.01) and in the neighbouring rostral ventral respiratory column (rVRC) from CIH- than from room air (RA)-conditioned rats. In a series of physiological experiments, we determined if blocking V(1A) receptors in the medulla would normalize blood pressure in CIH-conditioned animals and attenuate its response to disinhibition of PVN. Blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR), diaphragm (D(EMG)) and genioglossus muscle (GG(EMG)) activity were recorded in anaesthetized, ventilated and vagotomized rats. The PVN was disinhibited by microinjecting a GABA(A) receptor antagonist, bicuculline (BIC, 0.1 nmol), before and after blocking V(1A) receptors within the RVLM and rVRC with SR49059 (0.2 nmol). In RA-conditioned rats, disinhibition of the PVN increased BP, HR, minute D(EMG) and GG(EMG) activity and these increases were attenuated after blocking V(1A) receptors. In CIH-conditioned rats, a significantly greater dose of blocker (0.4 nmol) was required to blunt these physiological responses (P < 0.05). Further, this dose normalized the baseline BP. In summary, AVP released by a subset of PVN neurons modulates cardiorespiratory output via V(1A) receptors in the RVLM and rVRC, and increased SNA in CIH-conditioned animals depends on up-regulation of V(1A) receptors in the RVLM.

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