Key points: A tonically active, muscarinic cholinergic inhibition of rostral raphe pallidus (rRPa) neurons influences thermogenesis of brown adipose tissue (BAT) independent of ambient temperature conditions. The tonically active cholinergic input to rRPa originates caudal to the hypothalamus. Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) activation in rRPa contributes to the inhibition of BAT sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) evoked by activation of neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM). The RVLM is not the sole source of the muscarinic cholinergic input to rRPa. Activation of GABA receptors in rRPa does not mediate the cholinergic inhibition of BAT SNA. Abstract: We sought to determine if body temperature and energy expenditure are influenced by a cholinergic input to neurons in the rostral raphe pallidus (rRPa), the site of sympathetic premotor neurons controlling thermogenesis of brown adipose tissue (BAT). Nanoinjections of the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) agonist, oxotremorine, or the cholinesterase inhibitor, neostigmine (NEOS), in the rRPa of anaesthetized rats decreased cold-evoked BAT sympathetic nerve activity (SNA, nadirs: −72 and −95%), BAT temperature (Tbat, −0.5 and −0.6°C), expired CO2 (Exp. CO2, −0.3 and −0.5%) and heart rate (HR, −22 and −41 bpm). NEOS into rRPa reversed the increase in BAT SNA evoked by blockade of GABA receptors in rRPa. Nanoinjections of the mAChR antagonist, scopolamine (SCOP), in the rRPa of warm rats increased BAT SNA (peak: +1087%), Tbat (+1.8°C), Exp. CO2 (+0.7%), core temperature (Tcore, +0.5°C) and HR (+54 bpm). SCOP nanoinjections in rRPa produced similar activations of BAT during cold exposure, following a brain transection caudal to the hypothalamus, and during the blockade of glutamate receptors in rRPa. We conclude that a tonically active cholinergic input to the rRPa inhibits BAT SNA via activation of local mAChR. The inhibition of BAT SNA mediated by mAChR in rRPa does not depend on activation of GABA receptors in rRPa. The increase in BAT SNA following mAChR blockade in rRPa does not depend on the activity of neurons in the hypothalamus or on glutamate receptor activation in rRPa.
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