Presynaptic NMDA receptor-mediated modulation of excitatory neurotransmission in the mouse dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus

Eva C. Bach, Bret N. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Activity of neurons in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve (DMV) is closely regulated by synaptic input, and regulation of that input by glutamate receptors on presynaptic terminals has been proposed. Presynaptic N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptors have been identified in a number of brain regions and act to modulate neurotransmitter release, but functional presynaptic NMDA receptors have not been adequately studied in the DMV. This study identified the presence and physiological function of presynaptic NMDA receptors on synaptic input to DMV neurons. Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from DMV neurons in acute slices from mice revealed prevalent miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents, which were significantly increased in frequency, but not amplitude, by application of NMDA. Antagonism of NMDA receptors with DL-2-amino-5-phosphonopentanoic acid (100 μM) resulted in a decrease in miniature excitatory postsynaptic current frequency and an increase in the paired pulse ratio of responses following afferent stimulation. No consistent effects of presynaptic NMDA receptor modulation were observed on GABAergic inputs. These results suggest that presynaptic NMDA receptors are present in the dorsal vagal complex and function to facilitate the release of glutamate, preferentially onto DMV neurons tonically, with little effect on GABA release. This type of presynaptic modulation represents a potentially novel form of glutamate regulation in the DMV, which may function to regulate glutamate-induced activity of central parasympathetic circuits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1484-1491
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012


  • Autonomic
  • Glutamate
  • Parasympathetic
  • Plasticity
  • Presynaptic modulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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