• bursting activity;
  • Epac;
  • internal calcium stores;
  • K-ATP channels;
  • respiratory network;
  • TRPM4 channels

J. Neurochem. (2011) 117, 295–308.


The exchange factor directly activated by cAMP (Epac) can couple cAMP production to the activation of particular membrane and cytoplasmic targets. Using patch-clamp recordings and calcium imaging in organotypic brainstem slices, we examined the role of Epac in pre-Bötzinger complex, an essential part of the respiratory network. The selective agonist 8-(4-chlorophenylthio)-2′-O-methyl-cAMP (8-pCPT) sensitized calcium mobilisation from inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate-sensitive internal stores that stimulated TRPM4 (transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily M, Melastatin) channels and potentiated the bursts of action potentials. 8-pCPT actions were abolished after inhibition of phospholipase C with U73122 and depletion of calcium stores with thapsigargin. Caffeine-sensitive release channels were not modulated by 8-pCPT. Epac inhibited ATP-sensitive K+ channels that also led to the enhancement of bursting by 8-pCPT. Bursting activity, spontaneous calcium transients and activity of TRPM4 and ATP-sensitive K+ channels were potentiated after brief exposures to bradykinin and incubation with wortmannin produced opposite effects that can be explained by changes in phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate levels. 8-pCPT stimulated the respiratory motor output in functionally intact preparations and the effects of bradykinin and wortmannin were identical to those observed in organotypic slices. The data thus indicate a novel pathway of controlling bursting activity in pre-Bötzinger complex neurons through Epac that can involved in reinforcement of the respiratory activity by cAMP.