• breathing;
  • calcium-activated non-specific cation current;
  • central pattern generator;
  • preBötzinger complex


Excitatory transmission mediated by AMPA receptors is critical for respiratory rhythm generation. However, the role of AMPA receptors has not been fully explored. Here we tested the functional role of AMPA receptors in inspiratory neurons of the neonatal mouse preBötzinger complex (preBötC) using an in vitro slice model that retains active respiratory function. Immediately before and during inspiration, preBötC neurons displayed envelopes of depolarization, dubbed inspiratory drive potentials, that required AMPA receptors but largely depended on the Ca2+-activated non-specific cation current (ICAN). We showed that AMPA receptor-mediated depolarization opened voltage-gated Ca2+ channels to directly evoke ICAN. Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor-mediated intracellular Ca2+ release also evoked ICAN. Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptors acted downstream of group I metabotropic glutamate receptor activity but, here too, AMPA receptor-mediated Ca2+ influx was essential to trigger the metabotropic glutamate receptor contribution to inspiratory drive potential generation. This study helps to elucidate the role of excitatory transmission in respiratory rhythm generation in vitro. AMPA receptors in preBötC neurons initiate convergent signaling pathways that evoke post-synaptic ICAN, which underlies inspiratory drive potentials. The coupling of AMPA receptors with ICAN suggests that latent burst-generating intrinsic conductances are recruited by excitatory synaptic interactions among preBötC neurons in the context of respiratory network activity in vitro, exemplifying a rhythmogenic mechanism based on emergent properties of the network.