Systemic Administration of Lipopolysaccharide Induces Release of Nitric Oxide and Glutamate and c-fos Expression in the Nucleus Tractus Solitarii of Rats

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There is increasing recognition that communication pathways exist between the immune system and brain, which allows bidirectional regulation of immune and brain responses to infection. The endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has been reported to elicit release of cytokines and expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in peripheral organs. Whereas LPS given systemically causes endotoxic shock, little is known about its central nervous system action, particularly the induction of iNOS. Nitric oxide (NO) and glutamate in the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) are important mediators of central cardiovascular regulation. We have previously demonstrated that intravenous injections of LPS increased the NO precursor L-arginine-induced depressor effect in the NTS. The present study investigated further the effects of LPS on the release of NO and glutamate in the NTS and the expression of c-fos, an immediate early response gene product, in neural substrates for central cardiovascular control. In vivo microdialysis coupled with chemiluminescence and electrochemical detection techniques were used to measure extracellular levels of NO and glutamate in the rat NTS. Immunohistochemistry was used for the examination of c-fos protein expression. We found that intravenous infusion of LPS (10 mg/kg) produced a biphasic depressor effect, with an early, sharp hypotension that partially recovered in 15 minutes and a secondary, more prolonged hypotension. In the NTS, a progressive increase of extracellular glutamate and NO levels occurred 3 and 4 hours after LPS was given, respectively. The effects of LPS on the induction of delayed hypotension and NO formation in the NTS were abolished by pretreatment with the iNOS inhibitor aminoguanidine. Finally, c-fos protein expression in the NTS and related structures for cardiovascular regulation was observed after LPS challenge. Taken together, these data suggest that an endotoxin given systemically can elicit delayed increases of glutamate release and iNOS-dependent NO production in the NTS and activate the central neural pathway for modulating cardiovascular function. (Hypertension. 1999;33:1218-1224.)

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