Alsahafi Z, Dickson CT, Pagliardini S
J Physiol. 2015 Aug
Understanding the sites and mechanisms underlying respiratory rhythmogenesis is of fundamental interest in the field of respiratory neurophysiology. Previous studies demonstrated the necessary and sufficient role of preBötzinger complex (preBötC) in generating inspiratory rhythms in vitro and in vivo. However, the influence of timed activation of the preBötC network in vivo is as yet unknown given the experimental approaches previously used. By unilaterally infecting preBötC neurons using an adeno-associated virus expressing channelrhodopsin we photo-activated the network in order to assess how excitation delivered in a spatially and temporally precise manner to the inspiratory oscillator influences ongoing breathing rhythms and related muscular activity in urethane-anaesthetized rats. We hypothesized that if an excitatory drive is necessary for rhythmogenesis and burst initiation, photo-activation of preBötC not only will increase respiratory rate, but also entrain it over a wide range of frequencies with fast onset, and have little effect on ongoing respiratory rhythm if a stimulus is delivered during inspiration. Stimulation of preBötC neurons consistently increased respiratory rate and entrained respiration up to fourfold baseline conditions. Furthermore, brief pulses of photostimulation delivered at random phases between inspiratory events robustly and consistently induced phase-independent (Type 0) respiratory reset and recruited inspiratory muscle activity at very short delays (∼100 ms). A 200 ms refractory period following inspiration was also identified. These data provide strong evidence for a fine control of inspiratory activity in the preBötC and provide further evidence that the preBötC network constitutes the fundamental oscillator of inspiratory rhythms.