Mecp2 Disruption in Rats Causes Reshaping in Firing Activity and Patterns of Brainstem Respiratory Neurons.


Department of Biology, Georgia State University, 50 Decatur Street, Atlanta, GA 30302, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


People with Rett Syndrome (RTT), a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in the MECP2 gene, have breathing abnormalities manifested as periodical hypoventilation with compensatory hyperventilation, which are attributable to a high incidence of sudden death. Similar breathing abnormalities have been found in animal models with Mecp2 disruptions. Although RTT-type hypoventilation is believed to be due to depressed central inspiratory activity, whether this is true remains unknown. Here we show evidence for reshaping in firing activity and patterns of medullary respiratory neurons in RTT-type hypoventilation without evident depression in inspiratory neuronal activity. Experiments were performed in decerebrate rats in vivo. In Mecp2-null rats, abnormalities in breathing patterns were apparent in both decerebrate rats and awake animals, suggesting that RTT-type breathing abnormalities take place in the brainstem without forebrain input. In comparison to their wild-type counterparts, both inspiratory and expiratory neurons in Mecp2-null rats extended their firing duration, and fired more action potentials during each burst. No changes in inspiratory or expiratory neuronal distributions were found. Most inspiratory neurons started firing in the middle of expiration and changed their firing pattern to a phase-spanning type. The proportion of post-inspiratory neurons was reduced in the Mecp2-null rats. With the increased firing activity of both inspiratory and expiratory neurons in null rats, phrenic discharges shifted to a slow and deep breathing pattern. Thus, the RTT-type hypoventilation appears to result from reshaping of firing activity of both inspiratory and expiratory neurons without evident depression in central inspiratory activity.


Rett Syndrome,electrophysiology,medullary respiratory neurons,phrenic activity,