Synaptic profile of nucleus tractus solitarius neurons involved with the peripheral chemoreflex pathways

Neuroscience. 2011 Dec 1:197:107-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.08.054. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


The glomus cells in the carotid bodies (CB) detect alterations in pH and pCO₂ and low pO₂ level in arterial blood. The carotid sinus nerve conveys the information related to the oxygen level to 2nd-order neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) via tractus solitarius (TS), which is part of the chemoreflex pathways. It has been demonstrated that in 2nd-order NTS neurons receiving inputs from the aortic depressor nerve (ADN), the TS stimulation presents high temporal fidelity. However, the temporal properties of synaptic activity in NTS neurons receiving inputs from CB were not yet fully investigated. Herein using patch-clamp recordings in NTS brainstem slices, we studied TS-evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents (TS-eEPSCs) on morphologically identified 2nd-order NTS neurons that receive afferent inputs from the CB and compared with 2nd-order ADN-NTS neurons recorded in the same experimental conditions. The amplitudes of TS-eEPSCs were similar in both groups, but the latencies and standard deviation (SD) of latency were significantly higher in the CB-NTS neurons (latency: 4±0.2 ms, SD: 0.49±0.03 ms) than in ADN-NTS neurons (latency: 3.3±0.3 ms, SD: 0.19±0.02 ms; P=0.049 for latency and P<0.001 for SD of latency). In a series of double-labeling experiments, we confirmed that some CB-NTS 2nd-order neurons send direct projections to the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM). We conclude that: (a) CB-NTS 2nd-order neurons present temporally distinct postsynaptic currents when compared with ADN-NTS 2nd-order neurons; (b) low SD of latency of TS-eEPSCs is not necessarily a characteristic of all 2nd-order neurons in the NTS; and (c) the presence of direct connections between these 2nd-order neurons in the NTS and RVLM is indicative that these synaptic properties of CB-NTS neurons are relevant for the processing of respiratory and autonomic responses to chemoreflex activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carotid Body / metabolism
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / cytology*
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Solitary Nucleus / cytology*
  • Solitary Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*