Resting sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) consists primarily of respiratory and cardiac rhythmic bursts of action potentials. During homeostatic challenges such as dehydration, the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) is activated and drives SNA in support of arterial pressure (AP). Given that PVN neurones project to brainstem cardio-respiratory regions that generate bursting patterns of SNA, we sought to determine the contribution of PVN to support of rhythmic bursting of SNA during dehydration and to elucidate which bursts dominantly contribute to maintenance of AP. Euhydrated (EH) and dehydrated (DH) (48 h water deprived) rats were anaesthetized, bilaterally vagotomized and underwent acute PVN inhibition by bilateral injection of the GABA-A receptor agonist muscimol (0.1 nmol in 50 nl). Consistent with previous studies, muscimol had no effect in EH rats (n = 6), but reduced mean AP (MAP; P < 0.001) and integrated splanchnic SNA (sSNA; P < 0.001) in DH rats (n = 6). Arterial pulse pressure was unaffected in both groups. Muscimol reduced burst frequency of phrenic nerve activity (P < 0.05) equally in both groups without affecting the burst amplitude-duration integral (i.e. area under the curve). PVN inhibition did not affect the amplitude of the inspiratory peak, expiratory trough or expiratory peak of sSNA in either group, but reduced cardiac rhythmic sSNA in DH rats only (P < 0.001). The latter was largely reversed by inflating an aortic cuff to restore MAP (n = 5), suggesting that the muscimol-induced reduction of cardiac rhythmic sSNA in DH rats was an indirect effect of reducing MAP and thus arterial baroreceptor input. We conclude that MAP is largely maintained in anaesthetized DH rats by a PVN-driven component of sSNA that is neither respiratory nor cardiac rhythmic.
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