Cardiac-locked bursts of muscle sympathetic nerve activity are absent in familial dysautonomia

Vaughan G. Macefield, Lucy Norcliffe-Kaufmann, Felicia B. Axelrod, Horacio Kaufmann

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19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Familial dysautonomia (Riley-Day syndrome) is an hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy (HSAN type III), expressed at birth, that is associated with reduced pain and temperature sensibilities and absent baroreflexes, causing orthostatic hypotension as well as labile blood pressure that increases markedly during emotional excitement. Given the apparent absence of functional baroreceptor afferents, we tested the hypothesis that the normal cardiac-locked bursts of muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) are absent in patients with familial dysautonomia. Tungsten microelectrodes were inserted percutaneously into muscle or cutaneous fascicles of the common peroneal nerve in 12 patients with familial dysautonomia. Spontaneous bursts of MSNA were absent in all patients, but in five patients we found evidence of tonically firing sympathetic neurones, with no cardiac rhythmicity, that increased their spontaneous discharge during emotional arousal but not during a manoeuvre that unloads the baroreceptors. Conversely, skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA), recorded in four patients, appeared normal. We conclude that the loss of phasic bursts of MSNA and the loss of baroreflex modulation of muscle vasoconstrictor drive contributes to the poor control of blood pressure in familial dysautonomia, and that the increase in tonic firing of muscle vasoconstrictor neurones contributes to the increase in blood pressure during emotional excitement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-700
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Volume591
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes

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