Neurotrophin and GDNF family ligand receptor expression in vagal sensory nerve subtypes innervating the adult guinea pig respiratory tract

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2011 May;300(5):L790-8. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00449.2010. Epub 2011 Feb 18.


We combined retrograde tracing techniques with single-neuron RT-PCR to compare the expression of neurotrophic factor receptors in nodose vs. jugular vagal sensory neurons. The neurons were further categorized based on location of their terminals (tracheal or lungs) and based on expression of the ionotropic capsaicin receptor TRPV1. Consistent with functional studies, nearly all jugular neurons innervating the trachea and lungs expressed TRPV1. With respect to the neurotrophin receptors, the TRPV1-expressing jugular C-fiber neurons innervating both the trachea and lung compartments preferentially expressed tropomyosin-receptor kinase A (TrkA), with only a minority of neurons expressing TrkB or TrkC. The nodose neurons that express TRPV1 (presumed nodose C-fibers) innervate mainly intrapulmonary structures. These neurons preferentially expressed TrkB, with only a minority expressing TrkA or TrkC. The expression pattern in tracheal TRPV1-negative neurons, nodose tracheal presumed Aδ-fiber neurons as well as the intrapulmonary TRPV1-negative presumed Aβ-fiber neurons, was similar to that observed in the nodose C-fiber neurons. We also evaluated the expression of GFRα receptors and RET (receptors for the GDNF family ligands). Virtually all vagal sensory neurons innervating the respiratory tract expressed RET and GFRα1. The jugular neurons also categorically expressed GFRα3, as well as ∼50% of the nodose neurons. GFRα2 was expressed in ∼50% of the neurons irrespective of subtype. The results reveal that Trk receptor expression in vagal afferent neurons innervating the adult respiratory tract depends more on the location of the cell bodies (jugular vs. nodose ganglion) than either the location of the terminals or the functional phenotype of the nerve. The data also reveal that in addition to neurotrophins, the GDNF family ligands may be important neuromodulators of vagal afferent nerves innervating the adult respiratory tract.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Receptors / biosynthesis*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Lung / innervation*
  • Male
  • Nodose Ganglion / physiology*
  • Receptor, trkA / biosynthesis
  • Receptor, trkB / biosynthesis
  • Receptor, trkC / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells
  • TRPV Cation Channels / biosynthesis
  • Trachea / innervation*


  • Glial Cell Line-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Receptors
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Receptor, trkA
  • Receptor, trkB
  • Receptor, trkC