Development of synaptic transmission to respiratory motoneurons

Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2011 Oct 15;179(1):34-42. doi: 10.1016/j.resp.2011.03.002. Epub 2011 Mar 5.


Respiratory motoneurons provide the exclusive drive to respiratory muscles and therefore are a key relay between brainstem neural circuits that generate respiratory rhythm and respiratory muscles that control moment of gases into and out of the airways and lungs. This review is focused on postnatal development of fast ionotropic synaptic transmission to respiratory motoneurons, with a focus on hypoglossal motoneurons (HMs). Glutamatergic synaptic transmission to HMs involves activation of both non-NMDA and NMDA receptors and during the postnatal period co-activation of these receptors located at the same synapse may occur. Further, the relative role of each receptor type in inspiratory-phase motoneuron depolarization is dependent on the type of preparation used (in vitro versus in vivo; neonatal versus adult). Respiratory motoneurons receive both glycinergic and GABAergic inhibitory synaptic inputs. During inspiration phrenic and HMs receive concurrent excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs. During postnatal development in HMs GABAergic and glycinergic synaptic inputs have slow kinetics and are depolarizing and with postnatal development they become faster and hyperpolarizing. Additionally shunting inhibition may play an important role in synaptic processing by respiratory motoneurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Respiratory Mechanics / physiology*
  • Respiratory Muscles / growth & development*
  • Respiratory Muscles / innervation
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*