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The neural network controlling breathing must establish rhythmic motor output at a level adequate to sustain life. Reduced respiratory neural activity elicits a novel form of plasticity in circuits driving the diaphragm known as inactivity-induced phrenic motor facilitation (iPMF), a rebound increase in phrenic inspiratory output observed once respiratory neural drive is restored. The mechanisms underlying iPMF are unknown. Here, we demonstrate in anesthetized rats that spinal mechanisms give rise to iPMF and that iPMF consists of at least two mechanistically distinct phases: (1) an early, labile phase that requires atypical PKC (PKCζ and/or PKCι/λ) activity to transition to a (2) late, stable phase. Early (but not late) iPMF is associated with increased interactions between PKCζ/ι and the scaffolding protein ZIP (PKCζ-interacting protein)/p62 in spinal regions associated with the phrenic motor pool. Although PKCζ/ι activity is necessary for iPMF, spinal atypical PKC activity is not necessary for phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF) following acute intermittent hypoxia, an activity-independent form of spinal respiratory plasticity. Thus, while iPMF and pLTF both manifest as prolonged increases in phrenic burst amplitude, they arise from distinct spinal cellular pathways. Our data are consistent with the hypotheses that (1) local mechanisms sense and respond to reduced respiratory-related activity in the phrenic motor pool and (2) inactivity-induced increases in phrenic inspiratory output require local PKCζ/ι activity to stabilize into a long-lasting iPMF. Although the physiological role of iPMF is unknown, we suspect that iPMF represents a compensatory mechanism, assuring adequate motor output in a physiological system in which prolonged inactivity ends life.


Kristi A Strey, Nicole L Nichols, Nathan A Baertsch, Oleg Broytman, Tracy L Baker-Herman. Spinal atypical protein kinase C activity is necessary to stabilize inactivity-induced phrenic motor facilitation. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2012 Nov 14;32(46):16510-20

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PMID: 23152633

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