Firing activity and postsynaptic properties of morphologically identified neurons of ventral oral pontine reticular nucleus.


The ventral part of the oral pontine reticular nucleus (vRPO) is an important region for the generation and maintenance of REM sleep. Firing activity and synaptic response properties of morphologically identified vRPO neurons have been investigated in urethane-anaesthetized cats. Extracellular recordings were performed through recording micropipettes and neurons were extracellularly stained with biocytin. Two types of neurons were identified under spontaneous conditions: type I neurons (77%) are characterized by non-rhythmic firing; type II neurons (23%) display single spikes firing rhythmically at between 7 and 22 Hz. Type I neurons displayed ellipsoid somata with thick dendritic trunks and axons that arose from either the soma or the initial dendritic segment; these axons could not be clearly followed. Type II neurons showed polygonal somata with radial dendrites; their axons branched at a small distance from the soma. Electrical stimulation of the contralateral vRPO elicited responses in both neuron types (57% and 31%, respectively); this effect was blocked by the non-NMDA glutamatergic receptor antagonist CNQX. Electrical stimulation of the PpT evoked orthodromic responses in type I neurons (41%) and inhibited the firing rate of all type II neurons for 50-100 ms. Both effects were blocked by the muscarinic receptor antagonist atropine. The cholinergic agonist, carbachol, increased the firing rate in most type I neurons and inhibited most type II neurons in these animals. The results demonstrated that the activity of vRPO neurons is modulated through the postsynaptic activation exerted by extrinsic afferents on cholinergic and glutamatergic receptors.


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