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J Neurosci. 2018 Aug 29;38(35):7713-7724. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3359-17.2018. Epub 2018 Jul 23.

Cerebrospinal Fluid-Contacting Neurons Sense pH Changes and Motion in the Hypothalamus.

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The Nobel Institute for Neurophysiology, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden and.
Evolution des Régulations Endocriniennes, Unité Mixte de Recherche 7221 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.
The Nobel Institute for Neurophysiology, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden and


CSF-contacting (CSF-c) cells are present in the walls of the brain ventricles and the central canal of the spinal cord and found throughout the vertebrate phylum. We recently identified ciliated somatostatin-/GABA-expressing CSF-c neurons in the lamprey spinal cord that act as pH sensors as well as mechanoreceptors. In the same neuron, acidic and alkaline responses are mediated through ASIC3-like and PKD2L1 channels, respectively. Here, we investigate the functional properties of the ciliated somatostatin-/GABA-positive CSF-c neurons in the hypothalamus by performing whole-cell recordings in hypothalamic slices. Depolarizing current pulses readily evoked action potentials, but hypothalamic CSF-c neurons had no or a very low level of spontaneous activity at pH 7.4. They responded, however, with membrane potential depolarization and trains of action potentials to small deviations in pH in both the acidic and alkaline direction. Like in spinal CSF-c neurons, the acidic response in hypothalamic cells is mediated via ASIC3-like channels. In contrast, the alkaline response appears to depend on connexin hemichannels, not on PKD2L1 channels. We also show that hypothalamic CSF-c neurons respond to mechanical stimulation induced by fluid movements along the wall of the third ventricle, a response mediated via ASIC3-like channels. The hypothalamic CSF-c neurons extend their processes dorsally, ventrally, and laterally, but as yet, the effects exerted on hypothalamic circuits are unknown. With similar neurons being present in rodents, the pH- and mechanosensing ability of hypothalamic CSF-c neurons is most likely conserved throughout vertebrate phylogeny.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT CSF-contacting neurons are present in all vertebrates and are located mainly in the hypothalamic area and the spinal cord. Here, we report that the somatostatin-/GABA-expressing CSF-c neurons in the lamprey hypothalamus sense bidirectional deviations in the extracellular pH and do so via different molecular mechanisms. They also serve as mechanoreceptors. The hypothalamic CSF-c neurons have extensive axonal ramifications and may decrease the level of motor activity via release of somatostatin. In conclusion, hypothalamic somatostatin-/GABA-expressing CSF-c neurons, as well as their spinal counterpart, represent a novel homeostatic mechanism designed to sense any deviation from physiological pH and thus constitute a feedback regulatory system intrinsic to the CNS, possibly serving a protective role from damage caused by changes in pH.


ASIC3; CSF-c neurons; hypothalamus; mechanosensor; pH sensor; somatostatin

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