Membrane and synaptic properties of nucleus tractus solitarius neurons projecting to the caudal ventrolateral medulla

De Pei Li, Qing Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Projections from the nucleus of tractus solitarius (NTS) to the caudal ventrolateral medulla (CVLM) are important in mediating autonomic reflexes. However, little is known about the cellular properties of the CVLM-projecting NTS neurons. In this study, the CVLM-projecting NTS neurons were retrogradely labeled by fluorescent microspheres injected into the CVLM. Whole cell voltage- and current-clamp recordings were performed on labeled NTS neurons in coronal brainstem slices. Compared with unlabeled neurons, the labeled NTS neurons had more depolarized resting membrane potentials, larger input resistance, and higher firing activity in response to depolarizing currents. Bath application of an ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonist kynurenic acid and a non-NMDA receptor antagonist CNQX significantly decreased the firing activity in the majority of labeled NTS neurons. In contrast, an NMDA receptor antagonist AP5 failed to alter the firing activity in labeled neurons tested. While the glycine receptor antagonist strychnine had no effect on the firing activity, blockade of GABAA receptors with bicuculline significantly increased the firing rate in the majority of labeled NTS neurons. Furthermore, CNQX blocked the majority of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) and evoked EPSCs elicited by stimulation of the tractus solitarius. The residual spontaneous and evoked EPSCs were abolished by the nicotinic receptor antagonist mecamylamine and the purinergic P2X receptor antagonist iso-PPADS. Finally, while bicuculline completely blocked the miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs), the spontaneous and evoked IPSCs were abolished by a combination of bicuculline and strychnine in labeled NTS neurons. Collectively, these data suggest that the CVLM-projecting neurons are a population of neurons with distinctive membrane properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-81
Number of pages13
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Oct 30 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomic reflex
  • Brainstem
  • GABA
  • Glutamate
  • Whole cell recording

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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