Temperature Influences Neuronal Activity and CO2/pH Sensitivity of Locus Coeruleus Neurons in the Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus

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The locus coeruleus (LC) is a chemoreceptive brain stem region in anuran amphibians and contains neurons sensitive to physiological changes in CO2/pH. The ventilatory and central sensitivity to CO2/pH is proportional to the temperature in amphibians, i.e., sensitivity increases with increasing temperature. We hypothesized that LC neurons from bullfrogs, Lithobates catesbeianus, would increase CO2/pH sensitivity with increasing temperature and decrease CO2/pH sensitivity with decreasing temperature. Further, we hypothesized that cooling would decrease, while warming would increase, normocapnic firing rates of LC neurons. To test these hypotheses, we used whole cell patch-clamp electrophysiology to measure firing rate, membrane potential (Vm), and input resistance (Rin) in LC neurons in brain stem slices from adult bullfrogs over a physiological range of temperatures during normocapnia and hypercapnia. We found that cooling reduced chemosensitive responses of LC neurons as temperature decreased until elimination of CO2/pH sensitivity at 10°C. Chemosensitive responses increased at elevated temperatures. Surprisingly, chemosensitive LC neurons increased normocapnic firing rate and underwent membrane depolarization when cooled and decreased normocapnic firing rate and underwent membrane hyperpolarization when warmed. These responses to temperature were not observed in nonchemosensitive LC neurons or neurons in a brain stem slice 500 μm rostral to the LC. Our results indicate that modulation of cellular chemosensitivity within the LC during temperature changes may influence temperature-dependent respiratory drive during acid-base disturbances in amphibians. Additionally, cold-activated/warm-inhibited LC neurons introduce paradoxical temperature sensitivity in respiratory control neurons of amphibians.