Talman WT, Jones S, Nitschke Dragon D, Lin L-H (2012) Selective damage to glia in the nucleus tractus solitarii attenuates cardiovascular reflexes. Neuroscience 2012 Abstracts 524.05. Society for Neuroscience, New Orleans, LA.
Summary: Lesions of the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) are known to attenuate or abolish cardiovascular reflex responses. We have previously reported that lesions produced by saporin (SAP) conjugates and focused on neurons that express the neurokinin-1 (NK1) receptor or on other neurons that express both tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DBH), also attenuate baroreflex function in rats. We found that lesions of both types of neurons also led to loss of glia that stained with glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). Further, we found that injection of SAP alone into the NTS led to loss of GFAP staining while leaving neurons in the region unaffected. Because both of the lesions directed at neurons were made by a toxic conjugate containing SAP, we sought to determine if SAP alone produced changes in cardiovascular reflex function. We found that injection of SAP (3 ng in 100 nl) into the NTS led to loss of the glial marker GFAP as well as connexin 43 (Cx43) immunofluorescent labeling in the NTS but did not affect the neuronal markers NMDAR1 (NMDA receptor subunit 1), GluR2 (AMPA receptor subunit 2), neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), TH, DBH, vesicular glutamate transporters (VGluTs), choline acetyl transferase (ChAT), NK1, and protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5). In animals treated with bilateral injections of SAP into the NTS, reflex responses were decreased during testing of the baroreflex, the chemoreflex, or the von Bezold Jarisch reflex. Comparable decreases in baroreflex responses were seen in animals treated with SAP alone when compared with other animals treated with SAP conjugates that targeted and concentrated damage to TH/DBH neurons or NK1 neurons in NTS. In contrast, when TH/DBH neurons were targeted by the toxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lability of arterial pressure did not occur as it did in the other SAP and SAP conjugate studies and reflex responses to the activation of the baroreflex, the chemoreflex, and the von Bezold Jarisch reflex did not differ from control. Furthermore, injections containing SAP or a SAP conjugate, but not those containing 6-OHDA, led to lability of arterial pressure as well as cardiac arrhythmias and cardiac myocytolysis. Our studies cannot exclude a physiological effect of SAP on neurons nor can it exclude an indirect effect of glial damage on NTS neurons. However, the similarity of responses when glia seem to have been targeted alone in contrast to those responses when select neuronal types seem to have been targeted suggests that each of the cardiovascular reflexes relies on intact glia in the NTS for full reflex expression.