Central integration of muscle reflex and arterial baroreflex in midbrain periaqueductal gray: Roles of GABA and NO

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It has been suggested that the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG) is a neural integrating site for the interaction between the muscle pressor reflex and the arterial baroreceptor reflex. The underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to examine the roles of GABA and nitric oxide (NO) in modulating the PAG integration of both reflexes. To activate muscle afferents, static contraction of the triceps surae muscle was evoked by electrical stimulation of the L7 and S1 ventral roots of 18 anesthetized cats. In the first group of experiments (n = 6), the pressor response to muscle contraction was attenuated by bilateral microinjection of muscimol (a GABA receptor agonist) into the lateral PAG [change in mean arterial pressure (ΔMAP) = 24 ± 5 vs. 46 ± 8 mmHg in control]. Conversely, the pressor response was significantly augmented by 0.1 mM bicuculline, a GABAA receptor antagonist (ΔMAP = 65 ± 10 mmHg). In addition, the effect of GABAA receptor blockade on the reflex response was significantly blunted after sinoaortic denervation and vagotomy (n = 4). In the second group of experiments (n = 8), the pressor response to contraction was significantly attenuated by microinjection L-arginine into the lateral PAG (ΔMAP = 26 ± 4 mmHg after L-arginine injection vs. 45 ± 7 mmHg in control). The effect of NO attenuation was antagonized by bicuculline and was reduced after denervation. These data demonstrate that GABA and NO within the PAG modulate the pressor response to muscle contraction and that NO attenuation of the muscle pressor reflex is mediated via arterial baroreflex-engaged GABA increase. The results suggest that the PAG plays an important role in modulating cardiovascular responses when muscle afferents are activated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H1312-H1318
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number3 56-3
StatePublished - Sep 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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