GABA in the paraventricular nucleus tonically suppresses baroreflex function: Alterations during pregnancy

Mollie C. Page, Priscila A. Cassaglia, Virginia L. Brooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


It is well established that GABAergic inputs to the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) tonically suppress heart rate and the activity of several sympathetic nerves. However, whether GABA similarly inhibits PVN control of baroreflex function has not been previously investigated. To test this hypothesis, it was determined whether microinjection of the GABAa antagonist, bicuculline, into the PVN enhances the baroreflex in anesthetized female virgin rats. In addition, because GABAergic inhibition of PVN preautonomic neurons is decreased during pregnancy, it was also determined whether the effects of PVN bicuculline administration on baroreflex function were less in pregnant animals. In virgin rats, PVN microinjection of bicuculline increased (P < 0.05) baroreflex gain and maximum levels of heart rate (gain, from 1.6 ± 0.6 to 3.8 ± 1.3 bpm/mmHg; maximum, from 406 ± 18 to 475 ± 14 bpm) and of lumbar sympathetic nerve activity (gain from 2.6 ± 0.7 to 4.8 ± 1.6%/ mmHg; maximum, 149 ± 32 to 273 ± 48%), indicating that PVN GABA normally suppresses baroreflex function. Pregnancy decreased heart rate baroreflex gain (pregnant, 0.9 ± 0.3 bpm/mmHg; virgin, 1.9 ± 0.2 bpm/mmHg; P < 0.05). Following PVN bicuculline administration in pregnant rats, smaller (P < 0.01) increments in baroreflex gain (pregnant, 0.6 ± 0.1 bpm/mmHg; virgin, 2.4 ± 0.9 bpm/mmHg) and maximum (pregnant, 33 ± 7 bpm; virgin, 75 ± 12 bpm; P < 0.05) were produced. Collectively, these data suggest that the PVN normally inhibits the baroreflex via tonic GABAergic inputs and that this inhibition is less during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1452-1458
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Baroreceptor reflex
  • Heart rate
  • Lumbar sympathetic nervous system
  • γ-aminobutyric acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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