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J Comp Neurol. 2010 May 15;518(10):1862-78. doi: 10.1002/cne.22308.

Projections of preBötzinger complex neurons in adult rats.

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Department of Neurobiology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


The preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) contains neural microcircuitry essential for normal respiratory rhythm generation in rodents. A subpopulation of preBötC neurons expresses somatostatin, a neuropeptide with a modulatory action on breathing. Acute silencing of a subpopulation of preBötC neurons transfected by a virus driving protein expression under the somatostatin promoter results in persistent apnea in awake adult rats. Given the profound effect of silencing these neurons, their projections are of interest. We used an adeno-associated virus to overexpress enhanced green fluorescent protein driven by the somatostatin promoter in preBötC neurons to label their axons and terminal fields. These neurons send brainstem projections to: 1) contralateral preBötC; 2) ipsi- and contralateral Bötzinger Complex; 3) ventral respiratory column caudal to preBötC; 4) parafacial respiratory group/retrotrapezoid nucleus; 5) parahypoglossal nucleus/nucleus of the solitary tract; 6) parabrachial/Kölliker-Fuse nuclei; and 7) periaqueductal gray. We did not find major projections to either cerebellum or spinal cord. We conclude that there are widespread projections from preBötC somatostatin-expressing neurons specifically targeted to brainstem regions implicated in control of breathing, and provide a network basis for the profound effects and the essential role of the preBötC in breathing.

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