Cell–Cell Coupling in CO2/H+-Excited Neurons in Brainstem Slices

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The indirect and direct electrical and anatomical evidence for the hypothesis that central chemoreceptor neurons in the dorsal brainstem (solitary complex, SC; locus coeruleus, LC) are coupled by gap junctions, as reported primarily in rat brainstem slices, and the methods used to study gap junctions in brain slices, are critiqued and reviewed. Gap junctions allow intercellular communication that could be important in either electrical coupling (intercellular flow of ionic current), metabolic coupling (intercellular flow of signaling molecules), or both, ultimately influencing excitability within the SC and LC during respiratory acidosis. Gap junctions may also provide a mechanism for modulating neuronal activity in the network under conditions that lead to increased or decreased central respiratory chemosensitivity. Indirect measures of electrical coupling suggest that junctional conductance between chemosensitive neurons is relatively insensitive to a broad range of intracellular pH (pHi), ranging from pHi ≈7.49 to ≈6.71 at 35–37 °C. In contrast, further reductions in pHi, down through pHi ≈6.67, abolish indirect measures of electrical coupling.



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