Regulation of breathing by CO2 requires the proton-activated receptor GPR4 in retrotrapezoid nucleus neurons

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Science  12 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6240, pp. 1255-1260
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0922

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Receptor in the brain controls breathing

Control of breathing in mammals depends primarily not on sensing oxygen, but rather on detecting concentrations of carbon dioxide in the blood. Failure of this system can cause potentially deadly sleep apnias. Taking a hint from insects, which use a heterotrimeric guanine nucleotide–binding protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) to sense carbon dioxide, Kumar et al. demonstrate that the GPCR GPR4 is essential to control breathing in mice. GPR4 senses protons generated by the formation of carbonic acid in the blood and works with a pH-sensitive potassium channel called TASK-2 in a set of brain cells that control breathing.

Science, this issue p. 1255


Blood gas and tissue pH regulation depend on the ability of the brain to sense CO2 and/or H+ and alter breathing appropriately, a homeostatic process called central respiratory chemosensitivity. We show that selective expression of the proton-activated receptor GPR4 in chemosensory neurons of the mouse retrotrapezoid nucleus (RTN) is required for CO2-stimulated breathing. Genetic deletion of GPR4 disrupted acidosis-dependent activation of RTN neurons, increased apnea frequency, and blunted ventilatory responses to CO2. Reintroduction of GPR4 into RTN neurons restored CO2-dependent RTN neuronal activation and rescued the ventilatory phenotype. Additional elimination of TASK-2 (K2P5), a pH-sensitive K+ channel expressed in RTN neurons, essentially abolished the ventilatory response to CO2. The data identify GPR4 and TASK-2 as distinct, parallel, and essential central mediators of respiratory chemosensitivity.

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