A combined blockade of glycine and calcium-dependent potassium channels abolishes the respiratory rhythm

Dietrich Busselberg, A. M. Bischoff, D. W. Richter

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In order to test whether glycinergic inhibition is essential for the in vivo respiratory rhythm, we analysed the discharge properties of neurones in the medullary respiratory network after blockade of glycine receptors in the in situ perfused brainstem preparation of mature wild type and oscillator mice with a deficient glycine receptor. In wild type mice, selective blockade of glycine receptors with low concentrations of strychnine (0.03-0.3 μM) provoked considerable changes in neuronal discharge characteristics: The cycle phase relationship of inspiratory, post-inspiratory and expiratory specific patterns of membrane potential changes was altered profoundly. Inspiratory, post-inspiratory and expiratory neurones developed a propensity for fast voltage oscillations that were accompanied by multiple burst discharges. These burst discharges were followed by "after-burst" hyperpolarisations that were capable of triggering secondary burst discharges. Blockade of glycine receptors and the "big" Ca2+-dependent K +-conductance by charybdotoxin (3.3 nM) resulted in loss of the respiratory rhythm, whilst only tonic discharge activity remained. In contrast, rhythmic activity was only weakened, but preserved after the "small" Ca2+-dependent activated K+ conductance was blocked with apamin (8 nM). Also low concentrations of pentobarbital sodium (6 mg/kg) abolished rhythmic respiratory activity after blockade of glycine receptors in the wild type mice and in glycine receptor deficient oscillator mice. The data imply that failure of glycine receptors provokes enhanced bursting behaviour of respiratory neurones, whilst the additional blockade of BKCa channels by charybdotoxin or with pentobarbital abolishes the respiratory rhythm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-841
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes



  • Breathing behaviour
  • Mice
  • Network functions
  • Oscillator mice
  • Rhythm generation
  • Synaptic interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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