DFG Research Center for Nanoscale Microscopy and Molecular Physiology of the Brain (CNMPB), Göttingen, Germany; Institute for Neurophysiology and Cellular Biophysics, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Humboldtallee 23, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany; Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, German Primate Center, 37077 Göttingen, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]
Glycine is a primary inhibitory transmitter in the ventral medullary respiratory network, but the functional role of glycinergic neurons for breathing remains a matter of debate. We applied optogenetics to selectively modulate glycinergic neuron activity within regions of the rostral ventral respiratory column (VRC). Responses of the phrenic nerve activity to the light-driven stimulation were studied in the working heart-brainstem preparation from adult glycine transporter 2 Cre mice (GlyT2-Cre), which received a unilateral injection of a Cre-dependent AAV virus into Bötzinger and preBötzinger Complex. Sustained light stimulation from the ventral medullary surface resulted in a substantial depression of the phrenic nerve (PN) frequency, which in most cases was compensated by an increase in PN amplitude. Periodic, burst stimulation with variable intervals could alter and reset respiratory rhythm. We conclude that unilateral activation of the rostral VRC glycinergic neurons can significantly affect respiratory pattern by lengthening the expiratory interval and modulating phase transition.