To directly investigate whether a monosynaptic connection exists between neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) and sympathetic preganglionic neurons (SPNs), we used simultaneous extracellular recordings of RVLM neurons and whole-cell patch-clamp recordings of SPNs at the Th2 level and analyzed them by spike-triggered averaging. We averaged 200 sweeps of membrane potentials in SPN triggered by the spikes in the RVLM neuron. No clear postsynaptic potentials were detected in the averaged wave of SPNs before angiotensin II (Ang II) superfusion, whereas during superfusion with Ang II (6 μmol/L) on the medulla oblongata side alone excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) were clearly found in the SPN of 3 out of 10 pairs at 40±1 ms after the averaged triggering spike in the RVLM neuron. We consider them to be monosynaptic EPSPs, because 1) the averaged EPSPs exhibited a sharp rise time, 2) the onset latency of the averaged EPSPs in the SPNs after the trigger spike in the RVLM was the same as the latency of the antidromic action potentials in the RVLM neurons in response to electrical stimulation of the SPNs, and 3) the amplitude of the averaged EPSPs was over 2 mV. In summary, combining simultaneous recording and spike-triggered averaging allowed us to demonstrate a monosynaptic excitatory connection between a single RVLM neuron and a single SPN in the thoracic spinal cord. Such connections provide the basis for the maintenance of sympathetic tone and the integrative reflex that relays through the RVLM. The results explain the mechanism by which Ang II in the RVLM area increases peripheral sympathetic activity and blood pressure.
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