Brainstem catecholaminergic neurons play key roles in the autonomic, neuroendocrine, and behavioral responses to glucoprivation, yet the functions of the individual groups are not fully understood. Adrenergic C3 neurons project widely throughout the brain, including densely to sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the spinal cord, yet their function is completely unknown. Here we demonstrate in rats that optogenetic stimulation of C3 neurons induces sympathoexcitatory, cardiovasomotor functions. These neurons are activated by glucoprivation, but unlike the C1 cell group, not by hypotension. The cardiovascular activation induced by C3 neurons is less than that induced by optogenetic stimulation of C1 neurons; however, combined stimulation produces additive sympathoexcitatory and cardiovascular effects. The varicose axons of C3 neurons largely overlap with those of C1 neurons in the region of sympathetic preganglionic neurons in the spinal cord; however, regional differences point to effects on different sympathetic outflows. These studies definitively demonstrate the first known function of C3 neurons as unique cardiovasomotor stimulatory cells, embedded in the brainstem networks regulating cardiorespiratory activity and the response to glucoprivation.
- Rostral ventrolateral medulla
- Sympathetic nervous system