Autonomic microganglion cells: A source of acetylcholine in the rat carotid body

Estelle B. Gauda, Reed Cooper, Shereé M. Johnson, Gabrielle L. McLemore, Cathleen Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Hypoxic chemosensitivity of peripheral arterial chemoreceptors and the ventilatory response to O2 deprivation increases with postnatal development. Multiple putative neurotransmitters, which are synthesized in the carotid body (CB), are thought to mediate signals generated by hypoxia. Acetylcholine (ACh) is believed to be a major excitatory neurotransmitter participating in hypoxic chemosensitivity. However, it is not known whether ACh originates from type I cells in the CB. In these studies, we tested the hypothesis that choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and vesicular ACh transporter (VAChT) mRNAs are expressed in the CB and that mRNA levels would increase with postnatal maturation or exposure to hypoxia. Semiquantitative in situ hybridization histochemistry and immunohistochemistry were used to localize cholinergic markers within neurons and cells of the rat CB, the nodose-petrosal-jugular ganglion complex, and the superior cervical ganglion up to postnatal day 28. We show that the pattern of distribution, in tissue sections, is similar for both ACh markers; however, the level of VAChT mRNA is uniformly greater than that of ChAT. VAChT mRNA and immunoreactivity are detected abundantly in the nodose-petrosal-jugular ganglion complex in a number of microganglion cells embedded in nerve fibers innervating the CB for all postnatal groups, whereas ChAT mRNA is detected in only a few of these cells. Contrary to our hypothesis, postnatal maturation caused a reduction in ACh trait expression, whereas hypoxic exposure did not induce the upregulation of VAChT and ChAT mRNA levels in the CB, microganglion, or within the ganglion complex. The present findings indicate that the source of ACh in the CB is likely within autonomic microganglion cells and cholinergic nerve terminals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-391
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Choline acetyltransferase
  • Development
  • Glomus cells
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Peripheral arterial chemoreceptors
  • Vesicular acetylcholine transporter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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