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Bacillus anthracis lethal toxin alters regulation of visceral sympathetic nerve discharge

Garcia, AA;Fels, RJ;Mosher, LJ;Kenney, MJ;

Bacillus anthracis infection is a pathophysiological condition that is complicated by progressive decreases in mean arterial pressure (MAP). Lethal toxin (LeTx) is central to the pathogenesis of B. anthracis infection, and the sympathetic nervous system plays a critical role in physiological regulation of acute stressors. However, the effect of LeTx on sympathetic nerve discharge (SND), a critical link between central sympathetic neural circuits and MAP regulation, remains unknown. We determined visceral (renal, splenic, and adrenal) SND responses to continuous infusion of LeTx [lethal factor (100 g/kg) + protective antigen (200 g/kg) infused at 0.5 ml/h for 6 h] and vehicle (infused at 0.5 ml/h) in anesthetized, baroreceptor-intact and baroreceptor (sinoaortic)-denervated (SAD) Sprague-Dawley rats. LeTx infusions produced an initial state of cardiovascular and sympathetic nervous system activation in intact and SAD rats. Subsequent to peak LeTx-induced increases in arterial blood pressure, intact rats demonstrated a marked hypotension that was accompanied by significant reductions in SND (renal and splenic) and heart rate (HR) from peak levels. After peak LeTx-induced pressor and sympathoexcitatory responses in SAD rats, MAP, SND (renal, splenic, and adrenal), and HR were progressively and significantly reduced, supporting the hypothesis that LeTx alters the central regulation of sympathetic nerve outflow. These findings demonstrate that the regulation of visceral SND is altered in a complex manner during continuous anthrax LeTx infusions and suggest that sympathetic nervous system dysregulation may contribute to the marked hypotension accompanying B. anthracis infection.