Tripartite purinergic modulation of central respiratory networks during perinatal development: the influence of ATP, ectonucleotidases, and ATP metabolites

J Neurosci. 2009 Nov 25;29(47):14713-25. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2660-09.2009.


ATP released during hypoxia from the ventrolateral medulla activates purinergic receptors (P2Rs) to attenuate the secondary hypoxic depression of breathing by a mechanism that likely involves a P2Y(1)R-mediated excitation of preBötzinger complex (preBötC) inspiratory rhythm-generating networks. In this study, we used rhythmically active in vitro preparations from embryonic and postnatal rats and ATP microinjection into the rostral ventral respiratory group (rVRG)/preBötC to reveal that these networks are sensitive to ATP when rhythm emerges at embryonic day 17 (E17). The peak frequency elicited by ATP at E19 and postnatally was the same ( approximately 45 bursts/min), but relative sensitivity was threefold greater at E19, reflecting a lower baseline frequency (5.6 +/- 0.9 vs 19.0 +/- 1.3 bursts/min). Combining microinjection techniques with ATP biosensors revealed that ATP concentration in the rVRG/preBötC falls rapidly as a result of active processes and closely correlates with inspiratory frequency. A phosphate assay established that preBötC-containing tissue punches degrade ATP at rates that increase perinatally. Thus, the agonist profile [ATP/ADP/adenosine (ADO)] produced after ATP release in the rVRG/preBötC will change perinatally. Electrophysiology further established that the ATP metabolite ADP is excitatory and that, in fetal but not postnatal animals, ADO at A(1) receptors exerts a tonic depressive action on rhythm, whereas A(1) antagonists extend the excitatory action of ATP on inspiratory rhythm. These data demonstrate that ATP is a potent excitatory modulator of the rVRG/preBötC inspiratory network from the time it becomes active and that ATP actions are determined by a dynamic interaction between the actions of ATP at P2 receptors, ectonucleotidases that degrade ATP, and ATP metabolites on P2Y and P1 receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 5'-Nucleotidase / metabolism
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Adenosine / metabolism
  • Adenosine A1 Receptor Agonists
  • Adenosine A1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Adenosine Diphosphate / metabolism
  • Adenosine Diphosphate / pharmacology
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism*
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Periodicity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, Adenosine A1 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / drug effects
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / metabolism
  • Respiration
  • Respiratory Center / drug effects
  • Respiratory Center / growth & development*
  • Respiratory Center / metabolism*
  • Rhombencephalon / drug effects
  • Rhombencephalon / growth & development*
  • Rhombencephalon / metabolism*


  • Adenosine A1 Receptor Agonists
  • Adenosine A1 Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptor, Adenosine A1
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Adenosine Diphosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • 5'-Nucleotidase
  • Adenosine