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When astronauts return to Earth and stand, their heart rates may speed inordinately, their blood pressures may fall, and some may experience frank syncope. We studied brief autonomic and haemodynamic transients provoked by graded Valsalva manoeuvres in astronauts on Earth and in space, and tested the hypothesis that exposure to microgravity impairs sympathetic as well as vagal baroreflex responses. We recorded the electrocardiogram, finger photoplethysmographic arterial pressure, respiration and peroneal nerve muscle sympathetic activity in four healthy male astronauts (aged 38-44 years) before, during and after the 16 day Neurolab space shuttle mission. Astronauts performed two 15 s Valsalva manoeuvres at each pressure, 15 and 30 mmHg, in random order. Although no astronaut experienced presyncope after the mission, microgravity provoked major changes. For example, the average systolic pressure reduction during 30 mmHg straining was 27 mmHg pre-flight and 49 mmHg in flight. Increases in muscle sympathetic nerve activity during straining were also much greater in space than on Earth. For example, mean normalized sympathetic activity increased 445% during 30 mmHg straining on earth and 792% in space. However, sympathetic baroreflex gain, taken as the integrated sympathetic response divided by the maximum diastolic pressure reduction during straining, was the same in space and on Earth. In contrast, vagal baroreflex gain, particularly during arterial pressure reductions, was diminished in space. This and earlier research suggest that exposure of healthy humans to microgravity augments arterial pressure and sympathetic responses to Valsalva straining and differentially reduces vagal, but not sympathetic baroreflex gain.
We previously demonstrated, using a nerve-cooling technique, that the vagus nerves are not essential for the counterregulatory response to hypoglycemia caused by high levels of insulin. Because high insulin levels per se augment the central nervous system response to hypoglycemia, the question arises whether afferent nerve fibers traveling along the vagus nerves would play a role in the defense of hypoglycemia in the presence of a more moderate insulin level. To address this issue, we studied two groups of conscious 18-h-fasted dogs with cooling coils previously placed on both vagus nerves. Each study consisted of a 100-min equilibration period, a 40-min basal period, and a 150-min hypoglycemic period. Glucose was lowered using a glycogen phosphorylase inhibitor and a low dose of insulin infused into the portal vein (0.7 mU.kg(-1) min(-1)). The arterial plasma insulin level increased to 15 +/- 2 microU/ml and the plasma glucose level fell to a plateau of 57 +/- 3 mg/dl in both groups. The vagal cooling coils were perfused with a 37 degrees C (SHAM COOL; n = 7) or a -20 degrees C (COOL; n = 7) ethanol solution for the last 90 min of the study to block parasympathetic afferent fibers. Vagal cooling caused a marked increase in the heart rate and blocked the hypoglycemia-induced increase in the arterial pancreatic polypeptide level. The average increments in glucagon (pg/ml), epinephrine (pg/ml), norepinephrine (pg/ml), cortisol (microg/dl), glucose production (mg.kg(-1). min(-1)), and glycerol (micromol/l) in the SHAM COOL group were 53 +/- 9, 625 +/- 186, 131 +/- 48, 4.63 +/- 1.05, -0.79 +/- 0.24, and 101 +/- 18, respectively, and in the COOL group, the increments were 39 +/- 7, 837 +/- 235, 93 +/- 39, 6.28 +/- 1.03 (P < 0.05), -0.80 +/- 0.20, and 73 +/- 29, respectively. Based on these data, we conclude that, even in the absence of high insulin concentrations, afferent signaling via the vagus nerves is not required for a normal counterregulatory response to hypoglycemia.
Our aim was to determine whether complete hepatic denervation would affect the hormonal response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia in dogs. Two weeks before study, dogs underwent either hepatic denervation (DN) or sham denervation (CONT). In addition, all dogs had hollow steel coils placed around their vagus nerves. The CONT dogs were used for a single study in which their coils were perfused with 37 degrees C ethanol. The DN dogs were used for two studies in a random manner, one in which their coils were perfused with -20 degrees C ethanol (DN + COOL) and one in which they were perfused with 37 degrees C ethanol (DN). Insulin was infused to create hypoglycemia (51 +/- 3 mg/dl). In response to hypoglycemia in CONT, glucagon, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, pancreatic polypeptide, glycerol, and hepatic glucose production increased significantly. DN alone had no inhibitory effect on any hormonal or metabolic counterregulatory response to hypoglycemia. Likewise, DN in combination with vagal cooling also had no inhibitory effect on any counterregulatory response except to reduce the arterial plasma pancreatic polypeptide response. These data suggest that afferent signaling from the liver is not required for the normal counterregulatory response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia.
Metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in the medulla oblongata have been suggested to be involved in the regulation of autonomic function. The aim of the present study was to examine the localization and expression of four types of mGluRs: mGluRla, mGluR2/3, mGluR5, and mGluR7 in the dorsal and ventral autonomic nuclei of the medulla of the rat. The four mGluR subtypes studied were differentially distributed in distinct subnuclei in the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS). mGluRla immunoreactivity was identified in cell bodies, dendrites, and axonal processes in the intermediate, dorsal lateral, and interstitial subnuclei of the NTS. No mGluRla immunoreactivity was observed in the commissural or medial NTS subnuclei. Immunoreactivity for mGluR2/3 and mGluR5 as observed in fibers and putative axonal processes in the interstitial, intermediate, and dorsolateral subnuclei of the NTS. In contrast, mGluR7 was expressed primarily in fibers and terminals in the central and commissural NTS subnuclei. Expression of mGluR2/3 was clearly evident in cell bodies, dendrites, and axonal processes within the area postrema. The vagal outflow nuclei were also studied. The dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (DMN) contained mGluRla cell bodies, dendrites, and axonal fibers and light mGluR2/3 processes. Throughout the rostral-caudal extent of the compact and semicompact formation nucleus ambiguus, mGluRla was found in cell bodies and fibers. Within the caudal and rostral regions of the ventral lateral medulla, mGluRla was observed in cell bodies and fibers. Cell bodies containing mGluRla were found adjacent to cells staining positive for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in these regions but were not colocalized with the TH staining. However, mGluRla-expressing neurons in the ventral lateral medulla did appear to receive innervation from TH-containing fibers. These results suggest that the mGluRla-expressing neurons within the ventral lateral medulla are predominantly not catecholaminergic but may be innervated by catecholamine-containing fibers. These data are the first to provide a mapping of the different mGluR subtypes within the medulla and may facilitate predictions regarding the function of L-glutamate neurotransmission in these regions.
Our aim was to determine whether vagal transmission is required for the hormonal response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia in 18-h-fasted conscious dogs. Hollow coils were placed around the vagus nerves, with animals under general anesthesia, 2 wk before an experiment. On the day of the study they were perfused with -15 degrees C ethanol for the purpose of blocking vagal transmission, either coincident with the onset of insulin-induced hypoglycemia or after 2 h of established hypoglycemia. In a separate study the coils were perfused with 37 degrees C ethanol in a sham cooling experiment. The following parameters were measured: heart rate, arterial plasma glucose, insulin, pancreatic polypeptide, glucagon, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, glycerol, free fatty acids, and endogenous glucose production. In response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia (42 mg/dl), plasma glucagon peaked at a level that was double the basal level, and plasma cortisol levels quadrupled. Plasma epinephrine and norepinephrine levels both rose considerably to 2,135 +/- 314 and 537 +/- 122 pg/ml, respectively, as did plasma glycerol (330 +/- 60%) and endogenous glucose production (150 +/- 20%). Plasma free fatty acids peaked at 150 +/- 20% and then returned to basal levels by the end of the study. The hypoglycemia-induced changes were not different when vagal cooling was initiated after the prior establishment of hypoglycemia. Similarly, when vagal cooling occurred concurrently with the initiation of insulin-induced hypoglycemia (46 mg/dl), there were no significant differences in any of the parameters measured compared with the control. Thus vagal blockade did not prevent the effect on either the hormonal or metabolic responses to low blood sugar. Functioning vagal afferent nerves are not required for a normal response to insulin-induced hypoglycemia.
Baroreflex failure is characterized by dramatic fluctuations of sympathetic activity and paroxysms of hypertension and tachycardia. In contrast, unopposed parasympathetic activity has not been described in patients with baroreflex failure because of concurrent parasympathetic denervation of the heart. We describe the unusual case of a patient with baroreflex failure in a setting of preserved parasympathetic control of HR manifesting episodes of severe bradycardia and asystole. Thus, parasympathetic control of the HR may be intact in occasional patients with baroreflex failure. Patients with this selective baroreflex failure require a unique therapeutic strategy for the control of disease manifestations.
The influence of autonomic tone on left ventricular (LV) contractility, along with the range of normal values and the effects of exercise on contractile state, were studied in 12 normal volunteers. Serial reproducibility was examined in a subgroup of 6. LV contractility was estimated by the LV peak-systolic pressure to end-systolic volume relation (pressure-volume relation), and the ratio of peak-systolic pressure to end-systolic volume (pressure/volume ratio). The cuff blood pressure and radionuclide ventriculogram were recorded at rest, during exercise and during pharmacologic pressure-afterloading with phenylephrine, before and after vagal and beta-adrenergic "blockade." Both the pressure/volume ratio and ejection fraction increased during the stimulus of exercise (both p less than or equal to 0.008). After blockade, the pressure-volume relations were highly linear (r = 0.95 +/- 0.05 [standard deviation], n = 12), and there was no systematic difference in their slopes induced by blockade. The serial studies of pressure-volume relations showed no significant differences. The results demonstrated that vagal and sympathetic tone were not important in the support of LV contractility in normal subjects at rest, and that the pressure-volume relation and pressure/volume ratio are reproducible between studies. Also, the findings confirmed that both the pressure/volume ratio and the ejection fraction were sensitive to exercise-induced changes in contractility. This demonstration of intrinsic LV contractility in normal subjects, plus the reproducibility of the measurements, supports the feasibility of serial study of LV contractility.