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Title: Predictions and experimental tests of a new biophysical model of the mammalian respiratory oscillator
Previously our computational modeling studies (Phillips et al., 2019) proposed that neuronal persistent sodium current (I NaP ) and calcium-activated non-selective cation current (I CAN ) are key biophysical factors that, respectively, generate inspiratory rhythm and burst pattern in the mammalian preBötzinger complex (preBötC) respiratory oscillator isolated in vitro. Here, we experimentally tested and confirmed three predictions of the model from new simulations concerning the roles of I NaP and I CAN : (1) I NaP and I CAN blockade have opposite effects on the relationship between network excitability and preBötC rhythmic activity; (2) I NaP is essential for preBötC rhythmogenesis; and (3) I CAN is essential for generating the amplitude of rhythmic output but not rhythm generation. These predictions were confirmed via optogenetic manipulations of preBötC network excitability during graded I NaP or I CAN blockade by pharmacological manipulations in slices in vitro containing the rhythmically active preBötC from the medulla oblongata of neonatal mice. Our results support and advance the hypothesis that I NaP and I CAN mechanistically underlie rhythm and inspiratory burst pattern generation, respectively, in the isolated preBötC.  more » « less
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  1. Inspiratory breathing rhythms arise from synchronized neuronal activity in a bilaterally distributed brainstem structure known as the preBötzinger complex (preBötC). In in vitro slice preparations containing the preBötC, extracellular potassium must be elevated above physiological levels (to 7–9 mM) to observe regular rhythmic respiratory motor output in the hypoglossal nerve to which the preBötC projects. Reexamination of how extracellular K + affects preBötC neuronal activity has revealed that low-amplitude oscillations persist at physiological levels. These oscillatory events are subthreshold from the standpoint of transmission to motor output and are dubbed burstlets. Burstlets arise from synchronized neural activity in a rhythmogenic neuronal subpopulation within the preBötC that in some instances may fail to recruit the larger network events, or bursts, required to generate motor output. The fraction of subthreshold preBötC oscillatory events (burstlet fraction) decreases sigmoidally with increasing extracellular potassium. These observations underlie the burstlet theory of respiratory rhythm generation. Experimental and computational studies have suggested that recruitment of the non-rhythmogenic component of the preBötC population requires intracellular Ca 2+ dynamics and activation of a calcium-activated nonselective cationic current. In this computational study, we show how intracellular calcium dynamics driven by synaptically triggered Ca 2+ influx as well as Ca 2+ release/uptake by the endoplasmic reticulum in conjunction with a calcium-activated nonselective cationic current can reproduce and offer an explanation for many of the key properties associated with the burstlet theory of respiratory rhythm generation. Altogether, our modeling work provides a mechanistic basis that can unify a wide range of experimental findings on rhythm generation and motor output recruitment in the preBötC. 
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  2. The preBötzinger Complex (preBötC) encodes inspiratory time as rhythmic bursts of activity underlying each breath. Spike synchronization throughout a sparsely connected preBötC microcircuit initiates bursts that ultimately drive the inspiratory motor patterns. Using minimal microcircuit models to explore burst initiation dynamics, we examined the variability in probability and latency to burst following exogenous stimulation of a small subset of neurons, mimicking experiments. Among various physiologically plausible graphs of 1000 excitatory neurons constructed using experimentally determined synaptic and connectivity parameters, directed Erdős-Rényi graphs with a broad (lognormal) distribution of synaptic weights best captured the experimentally observed dynamics. preBötC synchronization leading to bursts was regulated by the efferent connectivity of spiking neurons that are optimally tuned to amplify modest preinspiratory activity through input convergence. Using graph-theoretic and machine learning-based analyses, we found that input convergence of efferent connectivity at the next-nearest neighbor order was a strong predictor of incipient synchronization. Our analyses revealed a crucial role of synaptic heterogeneity in imparting exceptionally robust yet flexible preBötC attractor dynamics. Given the pervasiveness of lognormally distributed synaptic strengths throughout the nervous system, we postulate that these mechanisms represent a ubiquitous template for temporal processing and decision-making computational motifs.

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  3. Abstract

    Breathing behaviour involves the generation of normal breaths (eupnoea) on a timescale of seconds and sigh breaths on the order of minutes. Both rhythms emerge in tandem from a single brainstem site, but whether and how a single cell population can generate two disparate rhythms remains unclear. We posit that recurrent synaptic excitation in concert with synaptic depression and cellular refractoriness gives rise to the eupnoea rhythm, whereas an intracellular calcium oscillation that is slower by orders of magnitude gives rise to the sigh rhythm. A mathematical model capturing these dynamics simultaneously generates eupnoea and sigh rhythms with disparate frequencies, which can be separately regulated by physiological parameters. We experimentally validated key model predictions regarding intracellular calcium signalling. All vertebrate brains feature a network oscillator that drives the breathing pump for regular respiration. However, in air‐breathing mammals with compliant lungs susceptible to collapse, the breathing rhythmogenic network may have refashioned ubiquitous intracellular signalling systems to produce a second slower rhythm (for sighs) that prevents atelectasis without impeding eupnoea.image

    Key points

    A simplified activity‐based model of the preBötC generates inspiratory and sigh rhythms from a single neuron population.

    Inspiration is attributable to a canonical excitatory network oscillator mechanism.

    Sigh emerges from intracellular calcium signalling.

    The model predicts that perturbations of calcium uptake and release across the endoplasmic reticulum counterintuitively accelerate and decelerate sigh rhythmicity, respectively, which was experimentally validated.

    Vertebrate evolution may have adapted existing intracellular signalling mechanisms to produce slow oscillations needed to optimize pulmonary function in mammals.

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  5. Abstract

    Neurons in the brainstem preBötzinger complex (preBötC) generate the rhythm and rudimentary motor pattern for inspiratory breathing movements. We performed whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from inspiratory neurons in the preBötC of neonatal mouse slices that retain breathing-related rhythmicityin vitro. We classified neurons based on their electrophysiological properties and genetic background, and then aspirated their cellular contents for single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). This data set provides the raw nucleotide sequences (FASTQ files) and annotated files of nucleotide sequences mapped to the mouse genome (mm10 from Ensembl), which includes the fragment counts, gene lengths, and fragments per kilobase of transcript per million mapped reads (FPKM). These data reflect the transcriptomes of the neurons that generate the rhythm and pattern for inspiratory breathing movements.

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