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BMC Neurosci. 2010 Oct 20;11:134. doi: 10.1186/1471-2202-11-134.

Distinct target cell-dependent forms of short-term plasticity of the central visceral afferent synapses of the rat.

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Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Department of Neuroscience, Jikei University School of Medicine, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-8461, Japan.



The visceral afferents from various cervico-abdominal sensory receptors project to the dorsal vagal complex (DVC), which is composed of the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), the area postrema and the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve (DMX), via the vagus and glossopharyngeal nerves and then the solitary tract (TS) in the brainstem. While the excitatory transmission at the TS-NTS synapses shows strong frequency-dependent suppression in response to repeated stimulation of the afferents, the frequency dependence and short-term plasticity at the TS-DMX synapses, which also transmit monosynaptic information from the visceral afferents to the DVC neurons, remain largely unknown.


Recording of the EPSCs activated by paired or repeated TS stimulation in the brainstem slices of rats revealed that, unlike NTS neurons whose paired-pulse ratio (PPR) is consistently below 0.6, the distribution of the PPR of DMX neurons shows bimodal peaks that are composed of type I (PPR, 0.6-1.5; 53% of 120 neurons recorded) and type II (PPR, < 0.6; 47%) neurons. Some of the type I DMX neurons showed paired-pulse potentiation. The distinction of these two types depended on the presynaptic release probability and the projection target of the postsynaptic cells; the distinction was not dependent on the location or soma size of the cell, intensity or site of the stimulation, the latency, standard deviation of latency or the quantal size. Repeated stimulation at 20 Hz resulted in gradual and potent decreases in EPSC amplitude in the NTS and type II DMX neurons, whereas type I DMX neurons displayed only slight decreases, which indicates that the DMX neurons of this type could be continuously activated by repeated firing of primary afferent fibers at a high (~10 Hz) frequency.


These two general types of short-term plasticity might contribute to the differential activation of distinct vago-vagal reflex circuits, depending on the firing frequency and type of visceral afferents.

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