Title

Visualization of oxytocin release that mediates paired pulse facilitation in hypothalamic pathways to brainstem autonomic neurons

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

11-7-2014

Journal

PLoS ONE

Volume

9

Issue

11

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0112138

Abstract

© 2014, PLOS ONE. Recent work has shown that oxytocin is involved in more than lactation and uterine contraction. The paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) contains neuroendocrine neurons that control the release of hormones, including vasopressin and oxytocin. Other populations of PVN neurons do not release hormones, but rather project to and release neurotransmitters onto other neurons in the CNS involved in fluid retention, thermoregulation, sexual behavior and responses to stress. Activation of oxytocin receptors can be cardioprotective and reduces the adverse cardiovascular consequences of anxiety and stress, yet how oxytocin can affect heart rate and cardiac function is unknown. While anatomical work has shown the presence of peptides, including oxytocin, in the projections from the PVN to parasympathetic nuclei, electrophysiological studies to date have only demonstrated release of glutamate and activation of fast ligand gated receptors in these pathways. In this study, using rats, we directly show, using sniffer CHO cells that express oxytocin receptors and the Ca2+ indicator R-GECO, that optogenetic activation of channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) expressing PVN fibers in the brainstem activates oxytocin receptors in the dorsomotor nucleus of the vagus (DMNV). We also demonstrate that while a single photoactivation of PVN terminals only activates glutamatergic receptors in brainstem cardiac vagal neurons (CVNs), neurons that dominate the neural control of heart rate, both the paired pulse facilitation, and sustained enhancement of glutamate release in this pathway is mediated by activation of oxytocin receptors. Our results provide direct evidence that a pathway from the PVN likely releases oxytocin and enhances short-term plasticity of this critical autonomic connection.

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