Structural and functional defects of the respiratory neural system in the medulla and spinal cord of Pax6 mutant rats

Keiko Ikeda, Hiroshi Onimaru, Hitoshi Inada, Shih Tien Lin, Satoru Arata, Noriko Osumi

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Pax6 is an important transcription factor expressed in several discrete domains of the developing central nervous system. It has been reported that Pax6 is involved in the specification of subtypes of hindbrain motor neurons. Pax6 homozygous mutant (rSey2/rSey2) rats die soon after birth, probably due to impaired respiratory movement. To determine whether the respiratory center in the medulla functions normally, we analyzed the histological and neurophysiological properties of the medulla and spinal cord in fetal rats with this mutation. First, the medulla of rSey2/rSey2 at embryonic (E) 21.5–E22.5 tended to be smaller than those from heterozygous mutant (rSey2/+) and wild-type (+/+) littermates. Through immunohistochemical analysis, we confirmed normal distribution of Phox2b-expressing cells in the parafacial respiratory group (pFRG) of rSey2/rSey2 rats. Expression of neurokinin-1 receptor (NK-1R) was weak and dispersed in rSey2/rSey2 rats. In addition, rSey2/rSey2 rats have a defect of the hypoglossal nerve root. Electrophysiological analysis using brainstem-spinal cord preparations (E21.5–E22.5) revealed that rSey2/rSey2 rats showed larger fluctuation of the amplitude of inspiratory activity monitored from the fourth cervical root although there was no significant difference in the respiratory rate among rSey2/rSey2, rSey2/+, and +/+ littermates. The response of respiratory rhythm to high CO2 was similar among all genotypes. Optical recordings of neuronal activity revealed that the activity of the pFRG tended to be weaker and inspiratory activity appeared in more scattered areas in the caudal ventral medulla in the rSey2/rSey2 rats. These results suggest that the basal activity of the respiratory system was preserved with mild impairment of the inspiratory activity in the rSey2/rSey2 rats and that the Pax6 gene is involved in the functional development of the neuronal system producing effective inspiratory motor outputs for survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-116
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Oct


  • Medulla
  • Pax6
  • Phox2b
  • Rats
  • Respiratory center

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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