5-HT neurons contribute to autoresuscitation and survival during intermittent severe hypoxia (IsH). In adults, catecholaminergic neurons in the ventrolateral medulla (VLM) contribute to the autonomic response to hypoxia. We hypothesized that 1) catecholaminergic neurons in the neonatal VLM are activated following IsH, 2) this activation is compromised following an acute loss of brain stem 5-HT, and 3) IsH induces cellular and/or transcriptomic plasticity within catecholaminergic and serotonergic neurons that are within or project to the VLM, respectively. To test these hypotheses, we treated rat pups with 6-fluorotryptophan, a tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) inhibitor, and then exposed treated and vehicle controls to IsH or air. Along with immunohistochemistry to detect tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)- or Fos-positive neurons, we used RNA sequencing to resolve the effects of IsH and 5-HT deficiency on the expression of serotonergic and catecholaminergic system genes in the VLM. 5-HT deficiency compromised autoresuscitation and survival. IsH significantly increased the number of identifiable TH-positive VLM neurons, an effect enhanced by 5-HT deficiency (P = 0.003). Contrary to our hypothesis, 5-HT-deficient pups had significantly more Fos-positive neurons following IsH (P = 0.008) and more activated TH-positive neurons following IsH or air (P = 0.04). In both groups the expression of the 5-HT transporter and TPH2 was increased following IsH. In 5-HT-deficient pups, the expression of the inhibitory 5-HT1A receptor was decreased following IsH, while the expression of DOPA decarboxylase was increased. These data show that the serotonergic and catecholaminergic systems in the VLM of the neonatal rat are dynamically upregulated by IsH, potentially adapting cardiorespiratory responses to severe hypoxia.
- intermittent hypoxia
- ventrolateral medulla
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