Acute intermittent hypoxia elicits a unique form of plasticity in the neural control of breathing, respiratory long-term facilitation (LTF). The resulting plasticity is unique in the sense that an equal cumulative duration of sustained hypoxia does not elicit the same underlying mechanisms. We propose to investigate cellular mechanisms giving rise to LTF in phrenic nerve activity (pLTF) in vivo, and to determine some of the mechanisms that distinguish sustained and intermittent hypoxia. Our working model is that intermittent (but not sustained) hypoxia increases synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) within phrenic motoneurons. We propose that BDNF activates extracellular regulated kinases (ERK 1/2), members of the MAP kinase family, within phrenic motoneurons. ERK 1/2 subsequently strengthens the synapse between brainstem premotor neurons and phrenic neurons, thereby establishing pLTF. We suggest that sustained hypoxia is unique in that it also activates protein phosphatases, which halt the mechanisms leading to increased BDNF synthesis. Thus, pLTF is observed following intermittent, but not sustained, hypoxia, largely through the differential regulation of phosphatase activity. We will pursue four specific aims to test the hypotheses that: 1) Intermittent (but not sustained) hypoxia increases BDNF synthesis near respiratory motoneurons; 2) Increased BDNF synthesis within phrenic motoneurons is necessary for pLTF; 3) Increased ERK 1/2 MAP kinase activation following intermittent hypoxia is necessary for pLTF; and 4) Sustained (but not intermittent) hypoxia activates protein phosphatases within phrenic motoneurons and halts the mechanisms leading to increased BDNF synthesis, ERK 1/2 activation and pLTF. A strength of this proposal is the multidisciplinary approach, including the application of modern molecular biological techniques such as RNA interference, towards an understanding of respiratory neuroplasticity in vivo. A thorough understanding of mechanisms leading to respiratory plasticity may provide the rationale for new therapeutic approaches to the treatment of devastating respiratory control disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, respiratory insufficiency following spinal cord injury, Rhett Syndrome and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
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Respiratory Integrative Biology and Translational Research Study Section (RIBT)
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Twery, Michael
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University of Wisconsin Madison
Schools of Veterinary Medicine
United States
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Nichols, Nicole L; Satriotomo, Irawan; Allen, Latoya L et al. (2017) Mechanisms of Enhanced Phrenic Long-Term Facilitation in SOD1G93A Rats. J Neurosci 37:5834-5845
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Devinney, Michael J; Fields, Daryl P; Huxtable, Adrianne G et al. (2015) Phrenic long-term facilitation requires PKC? activity within phrenic motor neurons. J Neurosci 35:8107-17

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