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J Neurosci. 1998 Mar 1;18(5):1879-85.

Vasopressin regularizes the phasic firing pattern of rat hypothalamic magnocellular vasopressin neurons.

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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Unité Propre de Recherche 9055, Biologie des Neurones Endocrines, Centre de Pharmacologie Endocrinologie, 34094 Montpellier cedex 05, France.


Vasopressin (AVP) magnocellular neurons of hypothalamic nuclei express specific phasic firing (successive periods of activity and silence), which conditions the mode of neurohypophyseal vasopression release. In situations favoring plasmatic secretion of AVP, the hormone is also released at the somatodendritic level, at which it is believed to modulate the activity of AVP neurons. We investigated the nature of this autocontrol by testing the effects of juxtamembrane applications of AVP on the extracellular activity of presumed AVP neurons in paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei of anesthetized rats. AVP had three effects depending on the initial firing pattern: (1) excitation of faintly active neurons (periods of activity of <10 sec), which acquired or reinforced their phasic pattern; (2) inhibition of quasi-continuously active neurons (periods of silences of <10 sec), which became clearly phasic; and (3) no effect on neurons already showing an intermediate phasic pattern (active and silent periods of 10-30 sec). Consequently, AVP application resulted in a narrower range of activity patterns of the population of AVP neurons, with a Gaussian distribution centered around a mode of 57% of time in activity, indicating a homogenization of the firing pattern. The resulting phasic pattern had characteristics close to those established previously for optimal release of AVP from neurohypophyseal endings. These results suggest a new role for AVP as an optimizing factor that would foster the population of AVP neurons to discharge with a phasic pattern known to be most efficient for hormone release.

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