Allergic inflammation-induced neuropeptide production in rapidly adapting afferent nerves in guinea pig airways

Allen C. Myers, Radhika Kajekar, Bradley J. Undem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


In the vagal-sensory system, neuropeptides such as substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) are synthesized nearly exclusively in small-diameter nociceptive type C-fiber neurons. By definition, these neurons are designed to respond to noxious or tissue-damaging stimuli. A common feature of visceral inflammation is the elevation in production of sensory neuropeptides. Little is known, however, about the physiological characteristics of vagal sensory neurons induced by inflammation to produce substance P. In the present study, we show that allergic inflammation of guinea pig airways leads to the induction of substance P and CGRP production in large-diameter vagal sensory neurons. Electrophysiological and anatomical evidence reveals that the peripheral terminals of these neurons are low-threshold Aδ mechanosensors that are insensitive to nociceptive stimuli such as capsaicin and bradykinin. Thus inflammation causes a qualitative change in chemical coding of vagal primary afferent neurons. The results support the hypothesis that during an inflammatory reaction, sensory neuropeptide release from primary afferent nerve endings in the periphery and central nervous system does not require noxious or nociceptive stimuli but may also occur simply as a result of stimulation of low-threshold mechanosensors. This may contribute to the heightened reflex physiology and pain that often accompany inflammatory diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L775-L781
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number4 26-4
StatePublished - 2002


  • Capsaicin
  • Jugular ganglion
  • Mechanosensors
  • Nodose ganglion
  • Substance P
  • Vagal neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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