Bulbospinal sympatho-excitatory neurons in the rat caudal raphe
Objectives: To explore the rat caudal raphe nuclei for neurons that respond to activation of baroreceptor nerves and that have a spinal axon, and to compare the behavioural properties of barosensitive bulbospinal neurons in the rat caudal raphe with the properties of barosensitive bulbospinal neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla. Design: Extracellular unit recordings were obtained from an area extending up to 1.0 mm caudally from the caudal edge of the facial nucleus. Two sites were explored: the rostral ventrolateral medulla and the midline.Materials and methods: Single-unit recordings were made in anaesthetized (75 mg/kg chloral hydrate and 30 mg/kg sodium pentobarbitone then 3-6 mg intravenously as required), immobilized (2 mg pancuronium as required) Sprague-Dawley rats. Central respiratory drive was recorded from phrenic nerve discharge. The barosensitivity of single units was assessed by R-wave triggered histograms and by histograms of their responses to aortic nerve stimulation or to intravenous injection of phenylephrine. Nociceptors were activated by a brief pinch of the tail. Results: Eleven spontaneously active units in the midline that were inhibited by baroreceptor stimulation and had a spinal axon were studied. Respiratory modulation was present and was predominantly inspiratory. Barosensitive neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla were activated by nociceptive inputs; midline barosensitive neurons were not. Conclusions: The behavioural characteristics of midline neurons differ from those of the bulbospinal barosensitive neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla, indicating that raphe spinal neurons have different sets of afferent inputs and may subserve to a distinct physiological role. The present paper is the first report of bulbospinal neurons in the rat caudal raphe that are inhibited by activation of arterial baroreceptors.