Respiratory modulated sympathetic activity: a putative mechanism for developing vascular resistance?

Linford Briant, Erin O'Callaghan, Alan Champneys, Julian Paton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
372 Downloads (Pure)


Sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) exhibits respiratory modulation. This component of SNA is important - being recruited under cardiorespiratory reflex conditions and elevated in the spontaneously hypertensive (SH) rat – and yet, the exact influence of this modulation on vascular tone is not understood, even in normotensive conditions. We constructed a mathematical model of the sympathetic innervation of an arteriole, and used it to test the hypothesis that respiratory modulation of SNA preferentially increases vasoconstriction compared to a frequency-matched tonic pattern. Simulations supported the hypothesis, where respiratory modulated increases in vasoconstriction were mediated by a noradrenergic mechanism. These predictions were tested in vivo in adult Wistar rats. Stimulation of the sympathetic chain (L3) with respiratory-modulated bursting patterns, revealed that bursting increases vascular resistance (VR) more than tonic stimulation (57.8 ± 3.3% vs 44.8 ± 4.2%; P < 0.001; n = 8). The onset of the VR response was also quicker for bursting stimulation (rise time-constant = 1.98 ± 0.09 s vs 2.35 ± 0.20 s; P < 0.01). In adult SH rats (n = 8), the VR response to bursting (44.6 ± 3.9%) was not different to tonic (37.4 ± 3.5%; P = 0.57). Using both mathematical modelling and in vivo techniques, we have shown that VR depends critically on respiratory modulation and revealed that this pattern-dependency in Wistar rats is due to a noradrenergic mechanism. This respiratory component may therefore contribute to the ontogenesis of hypertension in the pre-hypertensive SH rat - raising VR and driving vascular remodelling. Why adult SH rats do not exhibit a pattern-dependent response is not known, but further modelling revealed that this may be due to dysfunctional NA reuptake.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5341–5360
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number24
Early online date28 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2015

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Mathematics Research Group


  • Vascular resistance
  • respiratory-sympathetic coupling
  • hypertension


Dive into the research topics of 'Respiratory modulated sympathetic activity: a putative mechanism for developing vascular resistance?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this