An Atlas of Vagal Sensory Neurons and Their Molecular Specialization

Cell Rep. 2019 May 21;27(8):2508-2523.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.04.096.


Sensory functions of the vagus nerve are critical for conscious perceptions and for monitoring visceral functions in the cardio-pulmonary and gastrointestinal systems. Here, we present a comprehensive identification, classification, and validation of the neuron types in the neural crest (jugular) and placode (nodose) derived vagal ganglia by single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) transcriptomic analysis. Our results reveal major differences between neurons derived from different embryonic origins. Jugular neurons exhibit fundamental similarities to the somatosensory spinal neurons, including major types, such as C-low threshold mechanoreceptors (C-LTMRs), A-LTMRs, Aδ-nociceptors, and cold-, and mechano-heat C-nociceptors. In contrast, the nodose ganglion contains 18 distinct types dedicated to surveying the physiological state of the internal body. Our results reveal a vast diversity of vagal neuron types, including many previously unanticipated types, as well as proposed types that are consistent with chemoreceptors, nutrient detectors, baroreceptors, and stretch and volume mechanoreceptors of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems.

Keywords: jugular ganglion; mechanoreceptor; nociceptor; nodose ganglion; sensory neurons; single cell RNA-sequencing; somatosensory; transcriptome; vagus nerve; viscerosensory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nodose Ganglion / cytology
  • Nodose Ganglion / metabolism*
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcriptome
  • Vagus Nerve / cytology
  • Vagus Nerve / metabolism*