Lung C-fibre receptor activation and defensive reflexes in anaesthetized cats

J Physiol. 1988 Aug;402:411-20. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1988.sp017212.


1. With pentobarbitone-anaesthetized cats we have elicited cough reflexes from the tracheobronchial tree and the larynx, and the aspiration and sneeze reflexes from the nasopharynx and the nose respectively. The reflexes were induced by mechanical stimulation of the mucosa, before and during activation of pulmonary C-fibre receptors by intravenous injections of capsaicin or phenylbiguanide. 2. During the 20-30 s apnoea due to C-fibre stimulation, the cough reflex from both sites and the sneeze reflex were completely abolished, whereas the aspiration reflex response was approximately halved. Reflex contractions of genioglossus muscle still occurred at this time, but were far weaker than in the control state. 3. During the rapid shallow breathing that immediately followed apnoea due to C-fibre receptor stimulation, the defensive reflexes recovered: the aspiration and sneeze reflexes fully and the cough reflexes to about half of the control response. 4. Acute hypotension due to haemorrhage, of a size considerably greater than that due to stimulation of the pulmonary C-fibre receptors, caused no significant inhibition of the cough reflex from the tracheobronchial tree. 5. We conclude that the pulmonary C-fibre reflex powerfully inhibits airway defensive reflexes, and that its activation is unlikely to contribute positively to coughing induced by aerosols of capsaicin and similar agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Anesthesia, General
  • Animals
  • Biguanides / pharmacology
  • Cats
  • Cough / physiopathology*
  • Lung / innervation*
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiopathology
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Respiratory System / physiopathology
  • Sneezing / drug effects


  • Biguanides
  • phenyl biguanide