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Cell Mol Neurobiol. 1983 Jun;3(2):113-26.

Responses of neurons of canine area postrema to neurotransmitters and peptides.


The responses of 122 neurons in the area postrema of anesthetized dogs to 17 common transmitters and peptides were determined. Recordings were made from one barrel of a seven-barrel ionophoretic electrode. All neurons were silent at rest, but most could be detected and excited by the application of glutamate. The glutamate response was a brief, high-frequency response of less than 1-sec duration. Excitatory responses were also found to histamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, apomorphine, angiotensin II, neurotensin, leucine enkephalin, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, thyrotropin releasing hormone, gastrin, vasopressin, and substance P. While most neurons tested were excited by dopamine and apomorphine, approximately half of those studied were also excited by each of the other substances. Inhibitory responses were found to norepinephrine (6 of 15 cells) and histamine (3 of 45 cells). No responses were found to acetylcholine, somatostatin, or cholecystokinin. The responses to all 13 excitatory substances other than glutamate were similar. Typically these responses had a latency of 2-20 sec and lasted for 30 sec to 5 min on their first application. The frequency of discharge was usually low (approximately 0.5 Hz). Multiple applications of these agents often induced a maintained spontaneous discharge of low frequency. Each application also induced a transient incremental discharge at a frequency that rarely exceeded 2 Hz. The area postrema has been proposed to be the "chemoreceptor trigger zone" for emesis (Borison and Wang, 1953). All of the agents which excite area postrema neurons, with the exception of serotonin and norepinephrine, are emetic, while none of the three agents without excitatory effects is known to be emetic. Thus these results provide strong support for the central role of the area postrema in emesis. The similarity of response to so many substances on small neurons suggests a common ionic and/or metabolic mechanism underlying the response. The prolonged nature of the response to brief administration of these agents would seem to be appropriate for neurons which subserve a sensation and behavior such as nausea and vomiting.

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