The key role of the respiratory neural center is respiratory rhythm generation to maintain homeostasis through the control of arterial blood pCO2/pH and pO2levels. The neuronal network responsible for respiratory rhythm generation in neonatal rat resides in the ventral side of the medulla and is composed of two groups; the parafacial respiratory group (pFRG) and the pre-Bötzinger complex group (preBötC). The pFRG partially overlaps in the retrotra-pezoid nucleus (RTN), which was originally identified in adult cats and rats. Part of the pre-inspiratory (Pre-I) neurons in the RTN/pFRG serves as central chemoreceptor neurons and the CO2sensitive Pre-I neurons express homeobox gene Phox2b. Phox2b encodes a transcription factor and is essential for the development of the sensory-motor visceral circuits. Mutations in human PHOX2B cause congenital hypoventilation syndrome, which is characterized by blunted ventilatory response to hypercapnia. Here we describe the generation of a novel transgenic (Tg) rat harboring fluorescently labeled Pre-I neurons in the RTN/pFRG. In addition, the Tg rat showed fluorescent signals in autonomic enteric neurons and carotid bodies. Because the Tg rat expresses inducible Cre recombinase in PHOX2B-positive cells during development, it is a potentially powerful tool for dissecting the entire picture of the respiratory neural network during development and for identifying the CO2/O2sensor molecules in the adult central and peripheral nervous systems.
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