Assistant Professor, Department of Human Physiology
Ph.D. University of Alberta
B.Sc. University of British Columbia
Overview: Research in the Huxtable laboratory focuses on the neural control of breathing (the central brainstem and spinal cord networks), with a specific focus on how inflammation (throughout the body and/or brain) undermines breathing. Breathing is a “simple”, rhythmic motor behaviour essential to maintaining life and homeostasis of blood gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide). The respiratory system begins generating episodic breathing rhythms in the womb and more regular rhythms abruptly at birth to begin exchange of blood gases, where it remains active until death. Despite the necessary robustness of the system, it is not a hardwired, immutable system even in adulthood. The respiratory system must be plastic (learn from previous experiences) and adapt to changes in state (sleep, wake), activity, aging, and disease or injury. The goal of Huxtable laboratory is to understand how the unstable respiratory network of premature or newborn infants are affected by inflammation, which commonly occurs with illness, infection, injury, and during the normal birthing process. Additionally, Dr. Huxtable’s research has shown a vulnerability of respiratory plasticity (a long-term change in respiratory motor output) in adults to inflammation. The current focus of the lab now is on whether inflammation during the perinatal period alters long-term respiratory network function and motor plasticity into adulthood. Research in the Huxtable laboratory combines concepts from neuroscience, respiratory physiology, and the immune system to answer basic science questions.
Dr. Huxtable currently has undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral positions open in her laboratory and is happy to discuss research opportunities with interested trainees.
Spinal protein phosphatase 1 constrains respiratory plasticity after sustained hypoxia.
J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Nov 01;125(5):1440-1446
Authors: Huxtable AG, Peterson TJ, Ouellette JN, Watters JJ, Mitchell GS
Plasticity is an important aspect of the neural control of breathing. One well-studied form of respiratory plasticity is phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF) induced by acute intermittent but not sustained hypoxia. Okadaic acid-sensitive protein phosphatases (PPs) differentially regulate phrenic nerve activity with intermittent vs. sustained hypoxia, at least partially accounting for pLTF pattern sensitivity. However, okadaic acid inhibits multiple serine/threonine phosphatases, and the relevant phosphatase (PP1, PP2A, PP5) for pLTF pattern sensitivity has not been identified. Here, we demonstrate that sustained hypoxia (25 min, 9-10.5% O2) elicits phrenic motor facilitation in rats pretreated with bilateral intrapleural injections of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs; Accell-modified to preferentially transfect neurons, 3.33 μM, 3 days) targeting PP1 mRNA (48 ± 14% change from baseline, n = 6) but not PP2A (14 ± 9% baseline, n = 6) or nontargeting siRNAs (4 ± 10% baseline, n = 7). In time control rats (no hypoxia) treated with siRNAs ( n = 6), no facilitation was evident (-9 ± 9% baseline). siRNAs had no effect on the hypoxic phrenic response. Immunohistochemistry revealed PP1 and PP2A protein in identified phrenic motoneurons. Although PP1 and PP2A siRNAs significantly decreased PP1 and PP2A mRNA in PC12 cell cultures, we were not able to verify "knockdown" in vivo after siRNA treatment. On the other hand, PP1 and PP2A siRNAs significantly decreased PP1 and PP2A mRNA in PC12 cell cultures, verifying the intended siRNA effects. In conclusion, PP1 (not PP2A) is the relevant okadaic acid-sensitive phosphatase constraining phrenic motor facilitation after sustained hypoxia and likely contributing to pLTF pattern sensitivity. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study demonstrates that the relevant okadaic acid-sensitive Ser/Thr protein phosphatase (PP) constraining facilitation after sustained hypoxia is PP1 and not PP2A. It suggests that PP1 may be critical in the pattern sensitivity of hypoxia-induced phrenic motor plasticity.
PMID: 30161006 [PubMed - in process]
IL-1 receptor activation undermines respiratory motor plasticity after systemic inflammation.
J Appl Physiol (1985). 2018 Aug 01;125(2):504-512
Authors: Hocker AD, Huxtable AG
Inflammation undermines respiratory motor plasticity, yet we are just beginning to understand the inflammatory signaling involved. Because interleukin-1 (IL-1) signaling promotes or inhibits plasticity in other central nervous system regions, we tested the following hypotheses: 1) IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) activation after systemic inflammation is necessary to undermine phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF), a model of respiratory motor plasticity induced by acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH), and 2) spinal IL-1β is sufficient to undermine pLTF. pLTF is significantly reduced 24 h after lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 100 μg/kg ip, 12 ± 18%, n = 5) compared with control (57 ± 25%, n = 6) and restored by peripheral IL-1R antagonism (63 ± 13%, n = 5, AF-12198, 0.5 mg/kg ip, 24 h). Furthermore, acute, spinal IL-1R antagonism (1 mM AF-12198, 15 μl it) restored pLTF (53 ± 15%, n = 4) compared with LPS-treated rats (11 ± 10%; n = 5), demonstrating IL-1R activation is necessary to undermine pLTF after systemic inflammation. However, in healthy animals, pLTF persisted after spinal, exogenous recombinant rat IL-1β (rIL-1β) (1 ng ± AIH; 66 ± 26%, n = 3, 10 ng ± AIH; 102 ± 49%, n = 4, 100 ng + AIH; 93 ± 51%, n = 3, 300 ng ± AIH; 37 ± 40%, n = 3; P < 0.05 from baseline). In the absence of AIH, spinal rIL-1β induced progressive, dose-dependent phrenic amplitude facilitation (1 ng; -3 ± 5%, n = 3, 10 ng; 8 ± 22%, n = 3, 100 ng; 31 ± 12%, P < 0.05, n = 4, 300 ng; 51 ± 17%, P < 0.01 from baseline, n = 4). In sum, IL-1R activation, both systemically and spinally, undermines pLTF after LPS-induced systemic inflammation, but IL-1R activation is not sufficient to abolish plasticity. Understanding the inflammatory signaling inhibiting respiratory plasticity is crucial to developing treatment strategies utilizing respiratory plasticity to promote breathing during ventilatory control disorders. NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study gives novel insights concerning mechanisms by which systemic inflammation undermines respiratory motor plasticity. We demonstrate that interleukin-1 signaling, both peripherally and centrally, undermines respiratory motor plasticity. However, acute, exogenous interleukin-1 signaling is not sufficient to undermine respiratory motor plasticity.
PMID: 29565772 [PubMed - in process]
Cyclooxygenase enzyme activity does not impair respiratory motor plasticity after one night of intermittent hypoxia.
Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2018 10;256:21-28
Authors: Huxtable AG, Kopp E, Dougherty BJ, Watters JJ, Mitchell GS
Although inflammation is prevalent in many clinical disorders challenging breathing, we are only beginning to understand the impact of inflammation on neural mechanisms of respiratory control. We recently demonstrated one form of respiratory motor plasticity is extremely sensitive to even mild inflammation induced by a single night (8 h) of intermittent hypoxia (IH-1), mimicking aspects of obstructive sleep apnea. Specifically, phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF) following moderate acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) is abolished by IH-1, but restored by high doses of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, ketoprofen. Since a major target of ketoprofen is cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, we tested the involvement of COX in IH-1 suppression of pLTF using the selective COX inhibitor NS-398. Systemic COX inhibition (3 mg/kg, i.p., 3 h before AIH) had no effect on pLTF in normoxia treated rats (76 ± 40% change from baseline, n = 6), and did not restore pLTF in IH-1 treated rats (-9 ± 7% baseline, n = 6). Similarly, spinal COX inhibition (27 mM, 12 μl, i.t.) had no effect on pLTF in normoxic rats (76 ± 34% baseline, n = 7), and did not significantly restore pLTF after IH-1 (37 ± 18% baseline, n = 7). COX-2 protein is expressed in identified phrenic motor neurons of both normoxia and IH-1 exposed rats, but immunolabeling was minimal in surrounding microglia; IH-1 had no discernable effect on COX-2 immunoreactivity. We conclude that the inflammatory impairment of pLTF by IH-1 is independent of COX enzyme activity or upregulated COX-2 expression.
PMID: 29233741 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Gestational intermittent hypoxia increases susceptibility to neuroinflammation and alters respiratory motor control in neonatal rats.
Respir Physiol Neurobiol. 2018 10;256:128-142
Authors: Johnson SM, Randhawa KS, Epstein JJ, Gustafson E, Hocker AD, Huxtable AG, Baker TL, Watters JJ
Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) during pregnancy are growing health concerns because these conditions are associated with adverse outcomes for newborn infants. SDB/OSA during pregnancy exposes the mother and the fetus to intermittent hypoxia. Direct exposure of adults and neonates to IH causes neuroinflammation and neuronal apoptosis, and exposure to IH during gestation (GIH) causes long-term deficits in offspring respiratory function. However, the role of neuroinflammation in CNS respiratory control centers of GIH offspring has not been investigated. Thus, the goal of this hybrid review/research article is to comprehensively review the available literature both in humans and experimental rodent models of SDB in order to highlight key gaps in knowledge. To begin to address some of these gaps, we also include data demonstrating the consequences of GIH on respiratory rhythm generation and neuroinflammation in CNS respiratory control regions. Pregnant rats were exposed to daily intermittent hypoxia during gestation (G10-G21). Neuroinflammation in brainstem and cervical spinal cord was evaluated in P0-P3 pups that were injected with saline or lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 0.1mg/kg, 3h). In CNS respiratory control centers, we found that GIH attenuated the normal CNS immune response to LPS challenge in a gene-, sex-, and CNS region-specific manner. GIH also altered normal respiratory motor responses to LPS in newborn offspring brainstem-spinal cord preparations. These data underscore the need for further study of the long-term consequences of maternal SDB on the relationship between inflammation and the respiratory control system, in both neonatal and adult offspring.
PMID: 29174411 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
The impact of inflammation on respiratory plasticity.
Exp Neurol. 2017 Jan;287(Pt 2):243-253
Authors: Hocker AD, Stokes JA, Powell FL, Huxtable AG
Breathing is a vital homeostatic behavior and must be precisely regulated throughout life. Clinical conditions commonly associated with inflammation, undermine respiratory function may involve plasticity in respiratory control circuits to compensate and maintain adequate ventilation. Alternatively, other clinical conditions may evoke maladaptive plasticity. Yet, we have only recently begun to understand the effects of inflammation on respiratory plasticity. Here, we review some of common models used to investigate the effects of inflammation and discuss the impact of inflammation on nociception, chemosensory plasticity, medullary respiratory centers, motor plasticity in motor neurons and respiratory frequency, and adaptation to high altitude. We provide new data suggesting glial cells contribute to CNS inflammatory gene expression after 24h of sustained hypoxia and inflammation induced by 8h of intermittent hypoxia inhibits long-term facilitation of respiratory frequency. We also discuss how inflammation can have opposite effects on the capacity for plasticity, whereby it is necessary for increases in the hypoxic ventilatory response with sustained hypoxia, but inhibits phrenic long term facilitation after intermittent hypoxia. This review highlights gaps in our knowledge about the effects of inflammation on respiratory control (development, age, and sex differences). In summary, data to date suggest plasticity can be either adaptive or maladaptive and understanding how inflammation alters the respiratory system is crucial for development of better therapeutic interventions to promote breathing and for utilization of plasticity as a clinical treatment.
PMID: 27476100 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Phrenic long-term facilitation requires PKCθ activity within phrenic motor neurons.
J Neurosci. 2015 May 27;35(21):8107-17
Authors: Devinney MJ, Fields DP, Huxtable AG, Peterson TJ, Dale EA, Mitchell GS
Acute intermittent hypoxia (AIH) induces a form of spinal motor plasticity known as phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF); pLTF is a prolonged increase in phrenic motor output after AIH has ended. In anesthetized rats, we demonstrate that pLTF requires activity of the novel PKC isoform, PKCθ, and that the relevant PKCθ is within phrenic motor neurons. Whereas spinal PKCθ inhibitors block pLTF, inhibitors targeting other PKC isoforms do not. PKCθ is highly expressed in phrenic motor neurons, and PKCθ knockdown with intrapleural siRNAs abolishes pLTF. Intrapleural siRNAs targeting PKCζ, an atypical PKC isoform expressed in phrenic motor neurons that underlies a distinct form of phrenic motor plasticity, does not affect pLTF. Thus, PKCθ plays a critical role in spinal AIH-induced respiratory motor plasticity, and the relevant PKCθ is localized within phrenic motor neurons. Intrapleural siRNA delivery has considerable potential as a therapeutic tool to selectively manipulate plasticity in vital respiratory motor neurons.
PMID: 26019328 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Intermittent Hypoxia-Induced Spinal Inflammation Impairs Respiratory Motor Plasticity by a Spinal p38 MAP Kinase-Dependent Mechanism.
J Neurosci. 2015 Apr 29;35(17):6871-80
Authors: Huxtable AG, Smith SM, Peterson TJ, Watters JJ, Mitchell GS
Inflammation is characteristic of most clinical disorders that challenge the neural control of breathing. Since inflammation modulates neuroplasticity, we studied the impact of inflammation caused by prolonged intermittent hypoxia on an important form of respiratory plasticity, acute intermittent hypoxia (three, 5 min hypoxic episodes, 5 min normoxic intervals) induced phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF). Because chronic intermittent hypoxia elicits neuroinflammation and pLTF is undermined by lipopolysaccharide-induced systemic inflammation, we hypothesized that one night of intermittent hypoxia (IH-1) elicits spinal inflammation, thereby impairing pLTF by a p38 MAP kinase-dependent mechanism. pLTF and spinal inflammation were assessed in anesthetized rats pretreated with IH-1 (2 min hypoxia, 2 min normoxia; 8 h) or sham normoxia and allowed 16 h for recovery. IH-1 (1) transiently increased IL-6 (1.5 ± 0.2-fold; p = 0.02) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) (2.4 ± 0.4-fold; p = 0.01) mRNA in cervical spinal homogenates, (2) elicited a sustained increase in IL-1β mRNA (2.4 ± 0.2-fold; p < 0.001) in isolated cervical spinal microglia, and (3) abolished pLTF (-1 ± 5% vs 56 ± 10% in controls; p < 0.001). pLTF was restored after IH-1 by systemic NSAID administration (ketoprofen; 55 ± 9%; p < 0.001) or spinal p38 MAP kinase inhibition (58 ± 2%; p < 0.001). IH-1 increased phosphorylated (activated) p38 MAP kinase immunofluorescence in identified phrenic motoneurons and adjacent microglia. In conclusion, IH-1 elicits spinal inflammation and impairs pLTF by a spinal p38 MAP kinase-dependent mechanism. By targeting inflammation, we may develop strategies to manipulate respiratory motor plasticity for therapeutic advantage when the respiratory control system is compromised (e.g., sleep apnea, apnea of prematurity, spinal injury, or motor neuron disease).
PMID: 25926462 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Hypoxia-induced phrenic long-term facilitation: emergent properties.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013 Mar;1279:143-53
Authors: Devinney MJ, Huxtable AG, Nichols NL, Mitchell GS
As in other neural systems, plasticity is a hallmark of the neural system controlling breathing. One spinal mechanism of respiratory plasticity is phrenic long-term facilitation (pLTF) following acute intermittent hypoxia. Although cellular mechanisms giving rise to pLTF occur within the phrenic motor nucleus, different signaling cascades elicit pLTF under different conditions. These cascades, referred to as Q and S pathways to phrenic motor facilitation (pMF), interact via cross-talk inhibition. Whereas the Q pathway dominates pLTF after mild to moderate hypoxic episodes, the S pathway dominates after severe hypoxic episodes. The biological significance of multiple pathways to pMF is unknown. This review will discuss the possibility that interactions between pathways confer emergent properties to pLTF, including pattern sensitivity and metaplasticity. Understanding these mechanisms and their interactions may enable us to optimize intermittent hypoxia-induced plasticity as a treatment for patients that suffer from ventilatory impairment or other motor deficits.
PMID: 23531012 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]