Cerebral erythropoietin (Epo) plays a crucial role for respiratory control in newborn rodents. We showed previously that soluble Epo receptor (sEpoR: an Epo antagonist) reduces basal ventilation and hypoxic hyperventilation at postnatal day 10 (P10) and in adult mice. However, at these ages (P10 and adulthood), Epo had no effect on central chemosensitivity. Nevertheless, it is known that the sensitivity to CO2/H+ during the mammalian respiratory network maturation process is age-dependent. Accordingly, in this study we wanted to test the hypothesis that cerebral Epo is involved in the breathing stimulation induced by the activation of central CO2/H+ chemoreceptors at earlier postnatal ages. To this end, en bloc brainstem-spinal cord preparations were obtained from P4 mice and the fictive breathing response to CO2-induced acidosis or metabolic acidosis was analyzed. This age (P4) was chosen because previous research from our laboratory showed that Epo altered (in a dose- and time-dependent manner) the fictive ventilation elicited in brainstem-spinal cord preparations. Moreover, as it was observed that peripheral chemoreceptors determined the respiratory sensitivity of central chemoreceptors to CO2, the use of this technique restricts our observations to central modulation. Our results did not show differences between preparations from control and transgenic animals (Tg21: overexpressing cerebral Epo; Epo-TAgh: cerebral Epo deficient mice). However, when Tg21 brainstem preparations were incubated for 1h with sEpoR, or with inhibitors of ERK/Akt (thus blocking the activation of the Epo molecular pathway), the fictive breathing response to CO2-induced acidosis was blunted. Our data suggest that variation of the Epo/sEpoR ratio is central to breathing modulation during CO2 challenges, and calls attention to clinical perspectives based on the use of Epo drugs at birth in hypoventilation cases.
Keywords: Central chemosensitivity; ERK/Akt; Erythropoietin; Hypercapnia; Newborn mice; Respiration; Soluble erythropoietin receptor.
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