Muscarinic cholinergic modulation of cardiovascular variables in spinal cord injured rats

Exp Neurol. 2023 May:363:114369. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2023.114369. Epub 2023 Mar 5.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) leads not only to major impairments in sensorimotor control but also to dramatic dysregulation of autonomic functions including major cardiovascular disturbances. Consequently, individuals with SCI endure daily episodic hypo/hypertension and are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Several studies have suggested that an intrinsic spinal coupling mechanism between motor and sympathetic neuronal networks exist and that propriospinal cholinergic neurons may be responsible for a synchronized activation of both somatic and sympathetic outputs. We therefore investigated in the present study, the effect of cholinergic muscarinic agonists on cardiovascular parameters in freely moving adult rats after SCI. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were implanted with radiotelemetry sensors for long-term in vivo monitoring of blood pressure (BP). From BP signal, we calculated heart rate (HR) and respiratory frequency. We first characterized the physiological changes occurring after a SCI performed at the T3-T4 level in our experimental model system. We then investigated the effects on BP, HR and respiration, of the muscarinic agonist oxotremorine using one variant that crossed the blood brain barrier (Oxo-S) and one that does not (Oxo-M) in both Pre- and Post-SCI animals. After SCI, both HR and respiratory frequency increased. BP values exhibited an immediate profound drop before progressively increasing over the three-week post-lesion period but remained below control values. A spectral analysis of BP signal revealed the disappearance of the low frequency component of BP (0.3-0.6 Hz) referred to as Mayer waves after SCI. In Post-SCI animals, central effects mediated by Oxo-S led to an increase in HR and MAP, a slowdown in respiratory frequency and to an increased power in the 0.3-0.6 Hz frequency band. This study unravels some of the mechanisms by which muscarinic activation of spinal neurons could contribute to partial restoration of BP after SCI.

Keywords: Acetylcholine; Blood pressure; Cardiovascular parameters; Heart rate; Oxotremorine;muscarinic receptors; Spinal cord injury; Sympathetic neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular System*
  • Female
  • Muscarinic Agonists / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries*


  • Muscarinic Agonists