Evidence for glutamatergic mechanisms in the vagal sensory pathway initiating cardiorespiratory reflexes in the shorthorn sculpin Myoxocephalus scorpius

L Sundin, J Turesson, Edwin Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


Glutamate is a major neurotransmitter of chemoreceptor and baroreceptor afferent pathways in mammals and therefore plays a central role in the development of cardiorespiratory reflexes. In fish, the gills are the major sites of these receptors, and, consequently, the terminal field (sensory area) of their afferents (glossopharyngus and vagus) in the medulla must be an important site for the integration of chemoreceptor and baroreceptor signals. This investigation explored whether fish have glutamatergic mechanisms in the vagal sensory area (Xs) that could be involved in the generation of cardiorespiratory reflexes. The locations of the vagal sensory and motor (Xm) areas in the medulla were established by the orthograde and retrograde axonal transport of the neural tract tracer Fast Blue following its injection into the ganglion nodosum. Glutamate was then microinjected into identified sites within the Xs in an attempt to mimic chemoreceptor- and baroreceptor-induced reflexes commonly observed in fish. By necessity, the brain injections were performed on anaesthetised animals that were fixed by 'eye bars' in a recirculating water system. Blood pressure and heart rate were measured using an arterial cannula positioned in the afferent branchial artery of the 3rd gill arch, and ventilation was measured by impedance probes sutured onto the operculum. Unilateral injection of glutamate (40-100 nl, 10 mmol l(-1)) into the Xs caused marked cardiorespiratory changes. Injection (0.14.3 mm deep) in different rostrocaudal, medial-lateral positions induced a bradycardia, either increased or decreased blood pressure, ventilation frequency and amplitude and, sometimes, an initial apnea. Often these responses occurred simultaneously in various different combinations but, occasionally, they appeared singly, suggesting specific projections into the Xs for each cardiorespiratory variable and local determination of the modality of the response. Response patterns related to chemoreceptor reflex activation were predominantly located rostral of obex, whereas patterns related to baroreceptor reflex activation were more caudal, around obex. The glutamate-induced bradycardia was N-methyl-D-aspartate (NNMA) receptor dependent and atropine sensitive. Taken together, our data provide evidence that glutamate is a putative player in the central integration of chemoreceptor and baroreceptor information in fish.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-876
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2003


  • ventilation
  • baroreceptor
  • blood pressure
  • fish
  • bradycardia
  • chemoreceptor
  • NMDA
  • reflex control
  • vagus
  • glutamate


Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence for glutamatergic mechanisms in the vagal sensory pathway initiating cardiorespiratory reflexes in the shorthorn sculpin Myoxocephalus scorpius'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this