Nucleus isthmi and control of breathing in amphibians
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Despite recent advances, the mechanisms of neurorespiratory control in amphibians are far from understood. One of the brainstem structures believed to play a key role in the ventilatory control of anuran amphibians is the nucleus isthmi (NI). This nucleus is a mesencephalic structure located between the roof of the midbrain and the cerebellum, which differentiates during metamorphosis; the period when pulmonary ventilation develops in bullfrogs. It has been recently suggested that the NI acts to inhibit hypoxic and hypercarbic drives in breathing by restricting increases in tidal volume. This data is similar to the influence of two pontine structures of mammals, the locus coeruleus and the nucleus raphe magnus. The putative mediators for this response are glutamate and nitric oxide. Microinjection of kynurenic acid (an ionotropic receptor antagonist of excitatory amino acids) and L-NAME (a non-selective NO synthase inhibitor) elicited increases in the ventilatory response to hypoxia and hypercarbia. This article reviews the available data on the role of the NI in the control of ventilation in amphibians. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.