Capsaicin-induced activation of pulmonary vagal C fibers produces reflex laryngeal closure in the rat

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2006 Oct;101(4):1104-12. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01101.2005. Epub 2006 Apr 27.


Our recent studies show that intravenous administration of capsaicin induces enhancement of the intralaryngeal thyroarytenoid (TA) branch but a reduction of the intralaryngeal abducent branch, suggesting that the glottis is likely closed by capsaicin. The aim of the present study was to examine whether the glottis is adducted by intravenous administration of capsaicin. Electromyographic (EMG) activity of the TA muscle, subglottal pressure (SGP), and glottal behavior were evaluated before and after intravenous administration of capsaicin in male Wistar rats that were anesthetized and tracheostomized. Catheters were placed in the femoral artery and vein, as well as in the right jugular vein. Low and high doses of capsaicin (0.625 and 1.25 microg/kg) produced apnea and increases in the amplitude of the TA EMG. This enhancement of the TA EMG was observed during apnea as well as during recovery from apnea. Moreover, the onset of the TA EMG was advanced such that it commenced earlier during inspiration. Concomitantly, the SGP substantially increased. Increases in both the TA EMG and SGP were abolished after bilateral sectioning of the recurrent laryngeal nerve. In some animals, movement of the vocal folds was recorded by taking a motion picture with a digital camera under a surgical microscope. With intravenous administration of capsaicin, a tight glottal closure, decreases in blood pressure, and bradycardia were observed. These results strongly suggest that glottal closure is reflexively induced by intravenous administration of capsaicin and that closure of the glottis is beneficial for the defense of the airway and lungs when an animal is exposed to environmental irritants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apnea / chemically induced
  • Apnea / physiopathology
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Bradycardia / chemically induced
  • Bradycardia / physiopathology
  • Capsaicin / administration & dosage
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology*
  • Diaphragm / drug effects
  • Diaphragm / physiopathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electromyography
  • Glottis / drug effects*
  • Glottis / physiopathology
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Laryngeal Muscles / drug effects*
  • Laryngeal Muscles / innervation
  • Laryngeal Muscles / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve / drug effects*
  • Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve / physiopathology
  • Reflex / drug effects*
  • Reflex / physiology


  • Capsaicin