Hypercapnia (increased CO2) is a major stimulus for breathing and is sensed by specialized neurons, called chemosensitive neurons, from several brainstem regions. We have been studying the ionic pathways by which these neurons sense CO2. Based on our findings, we have proposed a new model of chemosensitive signaling, the multiple factors model. The main tenet of this model is that the response of chemosensitive neurons to hypercapnia involves multiple signaling pathways that target multiple ion channels. The work in this revised application is divided into 4 aims: 1) test directly that there are multiple signals involved in chemosensitive signaling, by measuring the intrinsic chemosensitivity of neurons from one brainstem region, focusing especially on neuronal responses to acidic stimuli with pHi held constant and on the role of Cai; 2) determine which ion channels act as targets of chemosensitive signaling and measure their properties, using a combination of immunocytochemistry and voltage clamp techniques to describe which channels are present in chemosensitive neurons and which are affected by hypercapnia; 3) compare the signaling pathways studied in Aim 1 in neurons from three different brainstem regions, the locus coeruleus (low chemosensitivity), the nucleus tractus solitarius (intermediate chemosensitivity) and the retrotrapezoid nucleus (high chemosensitivity) and develop a mathematical model to describe the response of mammalian chemosensitive neurons which combines the multiple signals and ion channel targets described for the neurons from each region; and 4) determine the efferent projections of CO2-chemosensitive neurons combining retrograde labeling with intracellular recordings. These studies will be the first to employ identical techniques in neurons from several brainstem regions which have widely different intrinsic chemosensitivitv, and should yield valuable new insights into the cellular properties that determine chemosensitivity. Further, our results should define the cellular signaling pathways and ion channel targets of chemosensitivitv in neurons and serve to test the multiple factors model. Many diseases, including sleep apnea and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) are believed to involve, in part, disordered central respiratory control, and yet no current drug treatments are available to modify this control pathway. Our studies should suggest new potential targets for drug treatment and may well indicate that a combination of drugs is most effective in modifying central respiratory drive. Lay Summary: Increased CO2, sensed by brainstem neurons, is a major stimulus that drives breathing. Alterations of this response are thought to be involved, in part, in diseases like sleep apnea, but no drugs are now available to affect this response. We are studying the ways in which neurons respond to CO2 to identify novel drug targets and to test a new theory that this pathway involves several different signals. ? ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RES-B (04))
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Twery, Michael
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Wright State University
Schools of Medicine
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