An imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory functions has been shown to contribute to numerous pathological disorders. Accumulating evidence supports the idea that a change in hypothalamic γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic inhibitory and glutamatergic excitatory synaptic functions contributes to exacerbated neurohumoral drive in prevalent cardiovascular disorders, including hypertension. However, the precise underlying mechanisms and neuronal substrates are still not fully elucidated. In the present study, we combined quantitative immunohistochemistry with neuronal tract tracing to determine whether plastic remodeling of afferent GABAergic and glutamatergic inputs into identified RVLM-projecting neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN-RVLM) contributes to an imbalanced excitatory/inhibitory function in renovascular hypertensive rats (RVH). Our results indicate that both GABAergic and glutamatergic innervation densities increased in oxytocin-positive, PVN-RVLM (OT-PVN-RVLM) neurons in RVH rats. Despite this concomitant increase, time-dependent and compartment-specific differences in the reorganization of these inputs resulted in an altered balance of excitatory/inhibitory inputs in somatic and dendritic compartments. A net predominance of excitatory over inhibitory inputs was found in OT-PVN-RVLM proximal dendrites. Our results indicate that, along with previously described changes in neurotransmitter release probability and postsynaptic receptor function, remodeling of GABAergic and glutamatergic afferent inputs contributes as an underlying mechanism to the altered excitatory/inhibitory balance in the PVN of hypertensive rats.
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