Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Chun Jiang

Second Advisor

Didier Merlin

Third Advisor

Bingzhong Xue


The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls most involuntary functions of the body. Dysfunctions of the ANS can be life-threatening. However, several critical questions related to cardiovascular and breathing regulations remain unclear.

One of the open questions is how the system lose control of the vascular tones under certain circumstances. Using the septic shock model induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in isolated and perfused mesenteric arterial rings, we found the vascular hyporeactivity is attributed to the decreased vasoconstriction to α-adrenoceptor agonists. The endotoxin-induced vasodilation can be intervened with endothelin-1 (ET-1), serotonin (5-HT) or vasopressin, which have never been used in clinical treatment.

It is unclear how the excitability of endothelium affects vascular tones. Using optogenetics and transgenic mice with channelrhodopsin expression in endothelial cells (ECs), we found selective activation of the ECs induces a fast, robust, reproducible and long-lasting vasoconstriction in isolated and perfused hearts and kidneys.

Breathing control by the ANS within the brain becomes abnormal in certain genetic diseases, such as Rett syndrome with defected norepinephrine (NE) system in locus coeruleus (LC). The LC neurons are hyperexcitable while NE release is deficient. Using optogenetics and double transgenic mice with Mecp2 null and channelrhodopsin expression in LC neurons, we found the NE-ergic modulation of hypoglossal neurons was impaired in transgenic mice, which cannot be improved with optostimulation, suggesting that LC neuronal hyperexcitability may not benefit the NE modulation in Rett syndrome.

Collectively, our results provide insight into the autonomic dysfunctions using experimental interventions that have barely been used before.