Hypocretin-1 (orexin A) prevents the effects of hypoxia/hypercapnia and enhances the GABAergic pathway from the lateral paragigantocellular nucleus to cardiac vagal neurons in the nucleus ambiguus

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Journal Article

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Bradycardia; Hypocretin; Parasympathetic preganglionic neurons; Rapid eye movement sleep; Rostral ventral medulla


Hypocretins (orexins) are hypothalamic neuropeptides that play a crucial role in regulating sleep/wake states and autonomic functions including parasympathetic cardiac activity. We have recently demonstrated stimulation of the lateral paragigantocellular nucleus (LPGi), the nucleus which is thought to play a role in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep control, activates an inhibitory pathway to preganglionic cardiac vagal neurons in the nucleus ambiguus (NA). In this study we test the hypothesis that hypocretin-1 modulates the inhibitory neurotransmission to cardiac vagal neurons evoked by stimulation of the LPGi using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in an in vitro brain slice preparation from rats. Activation of hypocretin-1 receptors produced a dose-dependent and long-term facilitation of GABAergic postsynaptic currents evoked by electrical stimulation of the LPGi. Hypoxia/hypercapnia diminished LPGi-evoked GABAergic current in cardiac vagal neurons and this inhibition by hypoxia/hypercapnia was prevented by pre-application of hypocretin-1. The action of hypocretin-1 was blocked by the hypocretin-1 receptor antagonist SB-334867. Facilitation of LPGi-evoked GABAergic current in cardiac vagal neurons under both normal condition and during hypoxia/hypercapnia could be the mechanism by which hypocretin-1 affects parasympathetic cardiac function and heart rate during REM sleep. Furthermore, our findings indicate a new potential mechanism that might be involved in the cardiac arrhythmias, bradycardia, and sudden cardiac death that can occur during sleep. © 2011.

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