The effects of microinjection of clonidine (1-10 μg in 1 μl) into a region adjacent to the ventrolateral surface of the medulla oblongata on cardiovascular function were assessed in urethane-anesthetized rats. Intramedullary administration of clonidine, but not saline vehicle, caused a dose-dependent decrease in both the mean arterial pressure and the heart rate. The clonidine-induced hypotension was antagonized by prior spinal transection, but not bilateral vagotomy. On the other hand, the clonidine-induced bradycardia was antagonized by prior bilateral vagotomy, but not spinal transection. Furthermore, selective destruction of the spinal 5-HT nerves, produced by bilateral spinal injection of 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine, reduced the magnitude of the vasodepressor or the bradycardiac responses to clonidine microinjected into the area near the ventrolateral surface of the medulla oblongata in rats. The data indicate that a bulbospinal serotonergic pathway is involved in development of clonidine-induced hypotension and bradycardia. The induced hypotension is brought about by a decrease in sympathetic efferent activity, whereas the induced bradycardia was due to an increase in vagal efferent activity.
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