Effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid on putative sympatho-excitatory neurons in the rat rostral ventrolateral medulla in vitro. Intracellular study

Neurosci Lett. 2001 Mar 2;300(1):49-53. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3940(00)01673-6.


Neurons in the rat rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) were electrophysiologically characterized and identified using an intracellular recording technique in vitro. The recorded neurons could be classified into three types: spontaneously active neurons with a regular pattern of action potential generation; spontaneously active neurons with an irregular pattern of discharge; and silent neurons. In regularly firing neurons during hyperpolarization below spike generation level there occurred: (a) a 'resetting' of regular pattern of firing; (b) the absence of underlying excitatory postsynaptic potentials; (c) an anomalous rectification that produced a decay in the hyperpolarization. In regularly firing neurons, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) (2-5 microM) produced a reversible membrane hyperpolarization, reduction of frequency of discharge and a moderate decrease in membrane input resistance. These effects were completely blocked in the presence of the GABAa antagonists bicuculline (16 microM) or picrotoxin (50 microM). However, the superfusion of bicuculline (16 microM), or picrotoxin (50 microM) alone elicited depolarization, increase in firing rate and increase of membrane input resistance. This study has provided evidence for regularly firing neurons in the RVLM in vitro, with strikingly similar electrophysiological characteristics to a group of neurons described in vivo as tonic sympathoexcitatory. In vitro they are still modulated by gabaergic inputs acting predominantly upon GABAa receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bicuculline / pharmacology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Amino Acids / physiology*
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interneurons / drug effects
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Medulla Oblongata / drug effects*
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / cytology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / drug effects*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acids
  • GABA Antagonists
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Bicuculline