Dendritic Calcium Activity Precedes Inspiratory Bursts in preBotzinger Complex Neurons

Christopher A. Del Negro, William & Mary
John A. Hayes, William & Mary
Jens C. Rekling


Medullary interneurons of the preBotzinger complex assemble excitatory networks that produce inspiratory-related neural rhythms, but the importance of somatodendritic conductances in rhythm generation is still incompletely understood. Synaptic input may cause Ca(2+) accumulation postsynaptically to evoke a Ca(2+)-activated inward current that contributes to inspiratory burst generation. We measured Ca(2+) transients by two-photon imaging dendrites while recording neuronal somata electrophysiologically. Dendritic Ca(2+) accumulation frequently precedes inspiratory bursts, particularly at recording sites 50-300 mu m distal from the soma. Preinspiratory Ca(2+) transients occur in hotspots, not ubiquitously, in dendrites. Ca(2+) activity propagates orthodromically toward the soma (and antidromically to more distal regions of the dendrite) at rapid rates (300-700 mu m/s). These high propagation rates suggest that dendritic Ca(2+) activates an inward current to electrotonically depolarize the soma, rather than propagate as a regenerative Ca(2+) wave. These data provide new evidence that respiratory rhythmogenesis may depend on dendritic burst-generating conductances activated in the context of network activity.