Isolation of the kernel for respiratory rhythm generation in a novel preparation: The pre-Bötzinger complex "island"

Shereé M. Johnson, Naohiro Koshiya, Jeffrey C. Smith

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90 Scopus citations


The pre-BÖtzinger complex (pre-BötC), a bilaterally distributed network of rhythmogenic neurons within the ventrolateral medulla, has been proposed to be the critical locus for respiratory rhythm generation in mammals. To date, thin transverse medullary slice preparations that capture the pre-BÖtC have served as the optimal experimental model to study the region's inherent cellular and network properties. We have reduced the thin slices to isolated pre-BötC "islands" to further establish whether the pre-BötC has intrinsic rhythmicity and is the kernel for rhythmogenesis in the slice. We recorded neuron population activity locally in the pre-BötC with macroelectrodes and fluorescent imaging of Ca2+ activities with Calcium Green-1AM dye before and after excising the island. The isolated island remained rhythmically active with a population burst profile similar to the inspiratory burst in the slice. Rhythmic population activity persisted in islands after block of GABAAergic and glycinergic synaptic inhibition. The loci of pre-BötC Ca2+ activity imaged in thin slices and islands were similar, and imaged pre-BötC neurons exhibited synchronized flashing after blocking synaptic inhibition. Population burst frequency increased monotonically as extracellular potassium concentration was elevated, consistent with mathematical models consisting entirely of an excitatory network of synaptically coupled pacemaker neurons with heterogeneous, voltage-dependent bursting properties. Our results provide further evidence for a rhythmogenic kernel in the pre-BötC in vitro and demonstrate that the islands are ideal preparations for studying the kernel's intrinsic properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1772-1776
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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