Neural control of submucosal gland and apical membrane secretions in airways

Physiol Rep. 2015 Jun;3(6):e12398. doi: 10.14814/phy2.12398.


The mechanisms that lay behind the low-level secretions from airway submucosal glands and the surface epithelium in the absence of external innervation have been investigated in small areas (1.0-1.5 cm(2)) of mucosa from sheep tracheas, freshly collected from a local abattoir. Glandular secretion was measured by an optical method while short circuit current was used as a measure of surface secretion. Activation of neurones in the intrinsic nerve net by veratrine alkaloids caused an immediate increase in both glandular secretion and short circuit current, both effects being blocked by the addition of tetrodotoxin. However, agents known to be acting directly on the glands, such as muscarinic agonists (e.g., carbachol) or adenylate cyclase activators (e.g., forskolin) were not influenced by tetrodotoxin. The toxin alone had no discernable effect on the low-level basal secretion shown by unstimulated glands. Calu-3 cell monolayers, generally agreed to be a surrogate for the secretory cells of submucosal glands, showed no sensitivity to veratrine alkaloids, strengthening the view that the veratrine-like drugs acted exclusively on the intrinsic nerve net. The data are discussed in relation way in which transplanted lungs can maintain mucociliary clearance and hence a sterile environment in the absence of external innervation, as in transplanted lungs.

Keywords: Submucosal gland secretion; transepithelial transport; veratrine alkaloids.