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Brain Res. 1994 May 9;645(1-2):291-302.

Changes in serotonin level in the hypoglossal nucleus region during carbachol-induced atonia.

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  • 1Department of Animal Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104.


The excitability of hypoglossal (XII) motoneurons innervating genioglossal muscles is markedly suppressed during the rapid-eye-movement (REM) stage of sleep. This may contribute to airway obstructions in sleep apnea patients. Based on our earlier studies in decerebrate cats using injections of carbachol into the pons to induce a REM sleep-like atonia and microinjections of serotonin (5HT) into the XII motor nucleus, we hypothesized that a sleep-related withdrawal of the serotonergic excitatory input to XII motoneurons may play a major role in these processes. To test one aspect of this hypothesis, we inserted microdialysis probes into the XII nucleus region of decerebrate, paralyzed, vagotomized and artificially ventilated cats. The probes were perfused without or with the addition of a 5HT reuptake blocker, clomipramine. The levels of 5HT and its metabolite, 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5HIAA), were determined using HPLC and electrochemical detection in dialysate samples collected over successive 20 min periods under four successive experimental conditions: control (at least 2 h after probe insertion); during the postural atonia and respiratory depression produced by pontine microinjection of carbachol; recovery from the effects of carbachol produced by pontine microinjection of atropine; and, to verify that the presence of 5HT in the dialysate was related to the activity of serotonergic cells of the brainstem, following administration of 8-OH-DPAT, a 5HT 1A receptor agonist known to suppress activity in the serotonergic cells of the raphe system. After correcting for recovery rates of individual probes, the mean control 5HT level in the extracellular space of the XII nucleus region was 7.9 +/- 4.4 nM (S.D.) in eight experiments without reuptake blockers. During the carbachol-induced depression, it was reduced to 70 +/- 20% of the pre-carbachol level. It increased to the original control level 98 +/- 27% after pontine injection of atropine. 8-OH-DPAT reduced the 5HT level to 43 +/- 14% of the post-atropine level. Changes in the 5HIAA level were not as consistent as for 5HT and did not reach statistical significance under any of the experimental conditions. Thus, a functionally significant amount of 5HT is present in the extracellular space within the XII nucleus region, and its decrement during carbachol-induced, REM sleep-like atonia is likely to reflect that occurring during natural REM sleep; this may contribute to the decreased tone of upper airway muscles and airway patency.

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