Vanilloid receptor (VR1) expression in vagal afferent neurons innervating the gastrointestinal tract.

  • Patterson L
  • Zheng H
  • Ward S
 et al. 
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The vanilloid receptor VR1 is a nonselective cation channel activated by capsaicin as well as increases in temperature and acidity, and can be viewed as molecular integrator of chemical and physical stimuli that elicit pain. The distribution of VR1 receptors in peripheral and central processes of rat primary vagal afferent neurons innervating the gastrointestinal tract was investigated by immunohistochemistry. Forty-two percent of neurons in the nodose ganglia retrogradely labeled from the stomach wall expressed low to moderate VR1 immunoreactivity (VR1-IR). VR1-IR was considerably lower in the nodose ganglia as compared to the jugular and dorsal root ganglia. In the vagus nerve, strongly VR1-IR fibers ran in separate fascicles that supplied mainly cervical and thoracic targets, leaving only weakly VR1-IR fibers in the subdiaphragmatic portion. Vagal afferent intraganglionic laminar endings (IGLEs) in the gastric and duodenal myenteric plexus did not express VR1-IR. Similarly, VR1-IR was contained in fibers running in perfect register with vagal afferents, but was not colocalized with horseradish peroxidase in the same varicosities of intramuscular arrays (IMAs) and vagal afferent fibers in the duodenal submucosa anterogradely labeled from the nodose ganglia. Only in the gastric mucosa did we find evidence for colocalization of VR1-IR in vagal afferent terminals. In contrast, many nerve fibers coursing through the myenteric and submucosal plexuses contained detectable VR1-IR, the majority of which colocalized calcitonin gene-related peptide immunoreactivity. In the dorsal medulla there was a dense plexus of VR1-IR varicose fibers in the commissural, dorsomedial and gelatinosus subnuclei of the medial NTS and the lateral aspects of the area postrema, which was substantially reduced, but not eliminated on the ipsilateral side after supranodose vagotomy. It is concluded that about half of the vagal afferents innervating the gastrointestinal tract express low levels of VR1-IR, but that presence in most of the peripheral terminal structures is below the immunohistochemical detection threshold.

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  • Laurel M Patterson

  • Huiyuan Zheng

  • Sean M Ward

  • Hans-Rudolf Berthoud

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