Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)

Glutamic acid and gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmitters in central control of breathing.

PMID 1672687


We review recent cross-disciplinary experimental and theoretical investigations on metabolism of the amino acid neurotransmitters glutamic acid and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain during hypoxia and hypercapnia and their possible role in central control of breathing. The roles of classical modifiers of central chemical drive to breathing (H+ and cholinergic mechanisms) are summarized. A brief perspective on the current widespread interest in GABA and glutamate in central control is given. The basic biochemistry of these amino acids and their roles in ammonia and bicarbonate metabolism are discussed. This review further addresses recent work on central respiratory effects of inhibitory GABA and excitatory glutamate. Current understanding of the sites and mechanisms of action of these amino acids on or near the ventral surface of the medulla is reviewed. We focus particularly on tracer kinetic investigations of glutamatergic and GABAergic mechanisms in hypoxia and hypercapnia and their possible role in the ventilatory response to hypoxia. We conclude with some speculative remarks on the critical importance of these investigations and suggest specific directions of research in central mechanisms of respiratory control.