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Divergent brainstem opioidergic pathways that coordinate breathing with pain and emotions


Authors: Shijia Liu, Mao Ye, Gerald M. Pao, Samuel M. Song, Jinho Jhang, Haibei Jiang, Jong-Hyun Kim, Sukjae J. Kang, Dong-Il Kim, Sung Han 4
Publication: Neuron
Date: December 17, 2021
Link to article: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2021.11.029


Breathing can be heavily influenced by pain or internal emotional states, but the neural circuitry underlying this tight coordination is unknown. Here we report that Oprm1 (μ-opioid receptor)-expressing neurons in the lateral parabrachial nucleus (PBL) are crucial for coordinating breathing with affective pain in mice. Individual PBLOprm1 neuronal activity synchronizes with breathing rhythm and responds to noxious stimuli. Manipulating PBLOprm1 activity directly changes breathing rate, affective pain perception, and anxiety. Furthermore, PBLOprm1 neurons constitute two distinct subpopulations in a “core-shell” configuration that divergently projects to the forebrain and hindbrain. Through non-overlapping projections to the central amygdala and pre-Bötzinger complex, these two subpopulations differentially regulate breathing, affective pain, and negative emotions. Moreover, these subsets form recurrent excitatory networks through reciprocal glutamatergic projections. Together, our data define the divergent parabrachial opioidergic circuits as a common neural substrate that coordinates breathing with various sensations and behaviors such as pain and emotional processing.

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