Distribution of voltage-gated potassium and hyperpolarization-activated channels in sensory afferent fibers in the rat carotid body

J Comp Neurol. 2008 Oct 1;510(4):367-77. doi: 10.1002/cne.21796.


The chemosensory glomus cells of the carotid body (CB) detect changes in O2 tension. Carotid sinus nerve fibers, which originate from peripheral sensory neurons located within the petrosal ganglion, innervate the CB. Release of transmitter from glomus cells activates the sensory afferent fibers to transmit information to the nucleus of the solitary tract in the brainstem. The ion channels expressed within the sensory nerve terminals play an essential role in the ability of the terminal to initiate action potentials in response to transmitter-evoked depolarization. However, with a few exceptions, the identity of ion channels expressed in these peripheral nerve fibers is unknown. This study addresses the expression of voltage-gated channels in the sensory fibers with a focus on channels that set the resting membrane potential and regulate discharge patterns. By using immunohistochemistry and fluorescence confocal microscopy, potassium channel subunits and HCN (hyperpolarization-activated) family members were localized both in petrosal neurons that expressed tyrosine hydroxylase and in the CSN axons within the carotid body. Channels contributing to resting membrane potential, including HCN2 responsible in part for I(h) current and the KCNQ2 and KCNQ5 subunits thought to underlie the neuronal "M current," were identified in the sensory neurons and their axons innervating the carotid body. In addition, the results presented here demonstrate expression of several potassium channels that shape the action potential and the frequency of discharge, including Kv1.4, Kv1.5, Kv4.3, and K(Ca) (BK). The role of these channels should be considered in interpretation of the fiber discharge in response to perturbation of the carotid body environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Carotid Body / physiology*
  • Ganglia, Sensory / physiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • KCNQ2 Potassium Channel / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • KCNQ2 Potassium Channel
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated
  • Oxygen