The peripheral arterial chemoreceptors of the carotid body participate in the ventilatory responses to hypoxia and hypercapnia, the arousal responses to asphyxial apnea, and the acclimatization to high altitude. In response to an excitatory stimuli, glomus cells in the carotid body depolarize, their intracellular calcium levels rise, and neurotransmitters are released from them. Neurotransmitters then bind to autoreceptors on glomus cells and postsynaptic receptors on chemoafferents of the carotid sinus nerve. Binding to inhibitory or excitatory receptors on chemoafferents control the electrical activity of the carotid sinus nerve, which provides the input to respiratory-related brainstem nuclei. We and others have used gene expression in the carotid body as a tool to determine what neurotransmitters mediate the response of peripheral arterial chemoreceptors to excitatory stimuli, specifically hypoxia. Data from physiological studies support the involvement of numerous putative neurotransmitters in hypoxic chemosensitivity. This article reviews how in situ hybridization histochemistry and other cellular localization techniques confirm, refute, or expand what is known about the role of dopamine, norepinephrine, substance P, acetylcholine, adenosine, and ATP in chemotransmission. In spite of some species differences, review of the available data support that 1) dopamine and norepinephrine are synthesized and released from glomus cells in all species and play an inhibitory role in hypoxic chemosensitivity; 2) substance P and acetylcholine are not synthesized in glomus cells of most species but may be made and released from nerve fibers innervating the carotid body in essentially all species; 3) adenosine and ATP are ubiquitous molecules that most likely play an excitatory role in hypoxic chemosensitivity.
- Adenosine receptors
- Dopamine receptors
- In situ hybridization histochemistry
- Substance P
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medical Laboratory Technology