Neuroanatomical relationships of substance P-immunoreactive intrapulmonary C-fibers and nicotinic cholinergic receptors.
Previous studies have suggested that sensory mechanisms may be important components of addiction to, and withdrawal from, cigarette smoking. The sensory and respiratory responses to nicotine are mediated, in part, by bronchopulmonary C-fiber afferents. Nicotine has a direct stimulatory effect on pulmonary sensory neurons, and nicotinic cholinergic receptors (nAChRs) composed of various combinations of alpha and beta subunits are known to be present in pulmonary ganglia. At the subcellular level, however, little is known about expression of nAChRs on sensory fibers in the intrapulmonary airways. The present study was therefore designed to evaluate the expression of nAChRs on a subset of intrapulmonary sensory nerve endings known to exhibit immunoreactivity for substance P (SP). The presence of nAChR subunits was first confirmed at the mRNA and protein levels in rat lung tissues by using RT-PCR and Western blot techniques. Then, double labeling of SP-immunoreactive (-IR) C-fibers and different nAChR subunits was performed. Alpha2, alpha3, alpha4, alpha5, alpha7, and beta2 subunits were detected at all levels of the intrapulmonary airways; including bronchi, terminal and respiratory bronchioles, alveolar walls, and alveolar macrophages. None of the nAChR subunits studied was expressed by the SP-IR C-fibers. However, SP-expressing C-fibers were observed in close proximity to and intermingling with nAChR-expressing airway epithelial cells. The close proximity of C-fibers to nAChR-expressing airway epithelial cells suggests that a component of nicotinic stimulation of SP-IR C-fiber afferents may be mediated by endogenous chemical substances released by nAChR-expressing epithelial cells.
Dehkordi, O; Rose, JE; Balan, KV; Kc, P; Millis, RM; Jayam-Trouth, A
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