The Rostral Medulla of Bullfrog Tadpoles Contains Critical Lung Rhythmogenic and Chemosensitive Regions Across Metamorphosis

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Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology




The development of amphibian breathing provides insight into vertebrate respiratory control mechanisms. Neural oscillators in the rostral and caudal medulla drive ventilation in amphibians, and previous reports describe ventilatory oscillators and CO2 sensitive regions arise during different stages of amphibian metamorphosis. However, inconsistent findings have been enigmatic, and make comparisons to potential mammalian counterparts challenging. In the current study we assessed amphibian central CO2responsiveness and respiratory rhythm generation during two different developmental stages. Whole-nerve recordings of respiratory burst activity in cranial and spinal nerves were made from intact or transected brainstems isolated from tadpoles during early or late stages of metamorphosis. Brainstems were transected at the level of the trigeminal nerve, removing rostral structures including the nucleus isthmi, midbrain, and locus coeruleus, or transected at the level of the glossopharyngeal nerve, removing the putative buccal oscillator and caudal medulla. Removal of caudal structures stimulated the frequency of lung ventilatory bursts and revealed a hypercapnic response in normally unresponsive preparations derived from early stage tadpoles. In preparations derived from late stage tadpoles, removal of rostral or caudal structures reduced lung burst frequency, while CO2 responsiveness was retained. Our results illustrate that structures within the rostral medulla are capable of sensing CO2 throughout metamorphic development. Similarly, the region controlling lung ventilation appears to be contained in the rostral medulla throughout metamorphosis. This work offers insight into the consistency of rhythmic respiratory and chemosensitive capacities during metamorphosis.