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J Physiol. 2014 Aug 15;592(16):3597-609. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2014.272633. Epub 2014 May 23.

Noradrenergic modulation of masseter muscle activity during natural rapid eye movement sleep requires glutamatergic signalling at the trigeminal motor nucleus.

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Systems Neurobiology Laboratory, Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Systems Neurobiology Laboratory, Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada


Noradrenergic neurotransmission in the brainstem is closely coupled to changes in muscle activity across the sleep-wake cycle, and noradrenaline is considered to be a key excitatory neuromodulator that reinforces the arousal-related stimulus on motoneurons to drive movement. However, it is unknown if α-1 noradrenoceptor activation increases motoneuron responsiveness to excitatory glutamate (AMPA) receptor-mediated inputs during natural behaviour. We studied the effects of noradrenaline on AMPA receptor-mediated motor activity at the motoneuron level in freely behaving rats, particularly during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a period during which both AMPA receptor-triggered muscle twitches and periods of muscle quiescence in which AMPA drive is silent are exhibited. Male rats were subjected to electromyography and electroencephalography recording to monitor sleep and waking behaviour. The implantation of a cannula into the trigeminal motor nucleus of the brainstem allowed us to perfuse noradrenergic and glutamatergic drugs by reverse microdialysis, and thus to use masseter muscle activity as an index of motoneuronal output. We found that endogenous excitation of both α-1 noradrenoceptor and AMPA receptors during waking are coupled to motor activity; however, REM sleep exhibits an absence of endogenous α-1 noradrenoceptor activity. Importantly, exogenous α-1 noradrenoceptor stimulation cannot reverse the muscle twitch suppression induced by AMPA receptor blockade and nor can it elevate muscle activity during quiet REM, a phase when endogenous AMPA receptor activity is subthreshold. We conclude that the presence of an endogenous glutamatergic drive is necessary for noradrenaline to trigger muscle activity at the level of the motoneuron in an animal behaving naturally.

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