Glutamatergic receptor dysfunction in spinal cord contributes to the exaggerated exercise pressor reflex in heart failure

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Excitatory amino acids (e.g., glutamate) released by contraction-activated skeletal muscle afferents into the dorsal horn of the spinal cord initiate the central component of the exercise pressor reflex (EPR) in physiological conditions. However, the role of glutamate and glutamate receptors in mediating the exaggerated EPR in the chronic heart failure (CHF) state remains to be determined. In the present study, we performed microinjection of glutamate receptor antagonists into ipisilateral L4/L5 dorsal horns to investigate their effects on the pressor response to static contraction induced by stimulation of the peripheral end of L4/L5 ventral roots in decerebrate sham-operated (sham) and CHF rats. Microinjection of glutamate (10 mM, 100 nl) into the L4 or L5 dorsal horn caused a greater pressor response in CHF rats compared with sham rats. Furthermore, microinjection of either the broadspectrum glutamate receptor antagonist kynurenate (10 mM, 100 nl) or the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist DL-2-amino- 5-phosphonovalerate (50 mM, 100 nl) or the non-NMDA-sensitive receptor antagonist 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (5 mM, 100 nl) into L4/5 dorsal horns decreased the pressor response to static contraction in CHF rats to a greater extent than in sham rats. Molecular evidence showed that the protein expression of glutamate receptors (both non-NMDA and NMDA) was elevated in the dorsal horn of the lumbar spinal cord in CHF rats. In addition, data from microdialysis experiments demonstrated that although basal glutamate release at the dorsal horn at rest was similar between sham and CHF rats (225 ± 50 vs. 260 ± 63 nM in sham vs. CHF rats, n = 4, P > 0.05), CHF rats exhibit greater glutamate release into the dorsal horn during muscle contraction compared with sham rats (549 ± 60 vs. 980 ± 65 nM in sham vs. CHF rats, n = 4, P < 0.01). These data indicate that the spinal glutamate system contributes to the exaggerated EPR in the CHF state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H447-H455
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015



  • Blood pressure
  • Decerebration
  • Exercise
  • Neurotransmitter
  • Sympathetic nerve activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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