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Volume 2 Supplement 1

Neural Control of Breathing

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Phrenic motoneuron and diaphragm development during the perinatal period

Several key events in the development of the perinatal rat phrenic nerve and diaphragm have been determined, including the following: i) Fetal inspiratory motor discharge commences within the phrenic motoneuron (PMN) pool on embryonic day (E)17; gestation period is 21 days. ii) Phrenic axons grow to innervate the full extent of diaphragmatic musculature by E17-E18. iii) There is a radical maturation of PMN morphology during the period from E16-E20. We have subsequently gone on to examine functional changes by examining PMN electrophysiological and diaphragm contractile properties prior and subsequent to these pivotal developmental stages (E16-P0).

Summary data will be presented demonstrating the following: 1) As PMNs develop from E16 to P0, there are changes in passive membrane properties; resting membrane potential becomes hyperpolarized by ~10 mV, the input resistance decreases ~3-fold, and the mean rheobase increases by a factor of ~2.6. 2) There are significant changes in the amplitude, duration and the afterpotentials of action potentials from E16-P0 which places restrictions on the repetitive firing patterns of fetal PMNs. 3) The changes in PMN firing properties are primarily due to age-dependent changes in the expression of voltage-sensitive calcium and calcium-activated potassium currents. 4) Both dye and electrical coupling have been detected amongst subpopulations of PMNs between ages E16 and P0. 5) There are marked changes in diaphragm muscle contractile properties that develop in concert with PMN repetitive firing properties so that the full-range of diaphragm force recruitment can be utilized at each age and potential problems of diaphragm fatigue are minimized.

Data presented will be derived from the following references:


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Funded by CIHR, AHFMR and Alberta Lung Association.

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Greer, J., Martin-Caraballo, M. Phrenic motoneuron and diaphragm development during the perinatal period. Respir Res 2 (Suppl 1), 1.3 (2001).

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