Altered expression of P2X3 in vagal and spinal afferents following esophagitis in rats

Histochem Cell Biol. 2009 Dec;132(6):585-97. doi: 10.1007/s00418-009-0639-4. Epub 2009 Sep 26.


Purinergic P2X(3) receptors are predominantly expressed in small diameter primary afferent neurons and activation of these receptors by adenosine triphosphate is reported to play an important role in nociceptive signaling. The objective of this study was to investigate the expression of P2X(3) receptors in spinal and vagal sensory neurons and esophageal tissues following esophagitis in rats. Two groups of rats were used including 7 days fundus-ligated (7D-ligated) esophagitis and sham-operated controls. Esophagitis was produced by ligating the fundus and partial obstruction of pylorus that initiated reflux of gastric contents. The sham-operated rats underwent midline incision without surgical manipulation of the stomach. Expressions of P2X(3) receptors in thoracic dorsal root ganglia (DRGs), nodose ganglia (NGs), and esophageal tissues were evaluated by RT-PCR, western blot and immunohistochemistry. Esophageal neurons were identified by retrograde transport of Fast Blue from the esophagus. There were no significant differences in P2X(3) mRNA expressions in DRGs (T1-T3) and NGs between 7D-ligated and sham-operated rats. However, there was an upregulation of P2X(3) mRNA in DRGs (T6-T12) and in the esophageal muscle. At protein level, P2X(3) exhibited significant upregulation both in DRGs and in NGs of rats having chronic esophagitis. Immunohistochemical analysis exhibited a significant increase in P2X(3) and TRPV1 co-expression in DRGs and NGs in 7D-ligated rats compared to sham-operated rats. The present findings suggest that chronic esophagitis results in upregulation of P2X(3) and its co-localization with TRPV1 receptor in vagal and spinal afferents. Changes in P2X(3) expression in vagal and spinal sensory neurons may contribute to esophageal hypersensitivity following acid reflux-induced esophagitis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Esophagitis / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neurons, Afferent / chemistry
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / analysis*
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2 / genetics
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X3
  • Spinal Nerves / cytology
  • Spinal Nerves / metabolism*
  • TRPV Cation Channels / analysis
  • TRPV Cation Channels / genetics
  • Up-Regulation
  • Vagus Nerve / cytology
  • Vagus Nerve / metabolism*


  • P2rx3 protein, rat
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X3
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Trpv1 protein, rat