HCN channels contribute to serotonergic modulation of ventral surface chemosensitive neurons and respiratory activity

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Feb 15;113(4):1195-205. doi: 10.1152/jn.00487.2014. Epub 2014 Nov 26.


Chemosensitive neurons in the retrotrapezoid nucleus (RTN) provide a CO2/H(+)-dependent drive to breathe and function as an integration center for the respiratory network, including serotonergic raphe neurons. We recently showed that serotonergic modulation of RTN chemoreceptors involved inhibition of KCNQ channels and activation of an unknown inward current. Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic-nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels are the molecular correlate of the hyperpolarization-activated inward current (Ih) and have a high propensity for modulation by serotonin. To investigate whether HCN channels contribute to basal activity and serotonergic modulation of RTN chemoreceptors, we characterize resting activity and the effects of serotonin on RTN chemoreceptors in vitro and on respiratory activity of anesthetized rats in the presence or absence of blockers of KCNQ (XE991) and/or HCN (ZD7288, Cs(+)) channels. We found in vivo that bilateral RTN injections of ZD7288 increased respiratory activity and in vitro HCN channel blockade increased activity of RTN chemoreceptors under control conditions, but this was blunted by KCNQ channel inhibition. Furthermore, in vivo unilateral RTN injection of XE991 plus ZD7288 eliminated the serotonin response, and in vitro serotonin sensitivity was eliminated by application of XE991 and ZD7288 or SQ22536 (adenylate cyclase blocker). Serotonin-mediated activation of RTN chemoreceptors was blocked by a 5-HT7-receptor blocker and mimicked by a 5-HT7-receptor agonist. In addition, serotonin caused a depolarizing shift in the voltage-dependent activation of Ih. These results suggest that HCN channels contribute to resting chemoreceptor activity and that serotonin activates RTN chemoreceptors and breathing in part by a 5-HT7 receptor-dependent mechanism and downstream activation of Ih.

Keywords: 5-HT7; Gs-coupled receptor; cAMP; retrotrapezoid nucleus; serotonin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Adenylyl Cyclase Inhibitors
  • Animals
  • Brain Stem / cytology
  • Brain Stem / metabolism
  • Brain Stem / physiology
  • Cesium / pharmacology
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / drug effects
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Chemoreceptor Cells / physiology
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Potassium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Respiration*
  • Serotonergic Neurons / drug effects
  • Serotonergic Neurons / metabolism*
  • Serotonergic Neurons / physiology
  • Serotonin / pharmacology


  • Adenylyl Cyclase Inhibitors
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels
  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • Pyrimidines
  • ICI D2788
  • Cesium
  • Serotonin