Altered c-fos in rostral medulla and spinal cord of spontaneously hypertensive rats
Neurons immunoreactive for Fos, the protein product of the immediate early gene c-fos, have been compared in the rostral ventral medulla and spinal cord of conscious normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY) and spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) after baroreceptor unloading. Hypotension induced by a 60-minute intravenous infusion of sodium nitroprusside reduced baroreceptor activity; controls received intravenous saline. In WKY, 474 ± 56 (n = 6) Fos-positive neurons were identified in the rostral ventral medulla after nitroprusside infusion, a fivefold increase from controls; 50% of the tyrosine hydroxylase-containing neurons in the rostral ventral medulla were activated by this hypotension. Sympathetic preganglionic neurons, mainly sympathoadrenal neurons, were Fos positive after nitroprusside, but Fos-positive sympathetic preganglionic neurons were not observed in control WKY. In SHR, Fos immunoreactivity in the rostral ventral medulla was elevated in the control group compared with the WKY controls (236 ± 31 and 93 ± 15, respectively, n = 6 for both). Nitroprusside hypotension did not further increase Fos immunoreactivity in the rostral ventral medulla, although the number of Fos-positive spinal sympathetic neurons increased. Our results have identified different neuronal activities between WKY and SHR in sites that are critical to sympathetic outflow. In WKY, nitroprusside effects are consistent with an activation of rostral ventral medulla neurons, including bulbospinal neurons, that are normally inhibited by baroreceptor activity. In SHR, basal nerve activity is increased, so even at rest, rostral ventral medulla neurons and sympathetic preganglionic neurons, mainly sympathoadrenal neurons, are Fos immunoreactive. These activated neurons are likely to contribute to the elevated blood pressure in this rat strain.