Muscarinic modulation of hypoxia-induced release of catecholamines from the cat carotid body

Hay Yan Jack Wang, Robert S. Fitzgerald

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22 Scopus citations


Chemotransduction of arterial hypoxemia by the cat carotid body is generally thought to begin with a hypoxia-induced depolarization of the glomus cells (GCs) of the carotid body (CB). This depolarization activates voltage-gated calcium channels with the subsequent entry of calcium, movement of transmitter-containing vesicles to the synaptic-like juncture between the GC and apposed sensory afferent neuron. The vesicles exocytotically release their transmitters which then proceed to the receptors on both the postsynaptic neuron and on the GCs themselves (autoreceptors). Action potentials and their modulation in the sensory fibers are the result, along with the modulation of further neurotransmitter release from the GCs. The purpose of the present study was to: (1) determine the parameters of an incubated cat CB preparation capable of releasing measurable amounts of catecholamines (CAs) in response to hypoxia; (2) determine the impact of muscarinic activities on CA release during the hypoxic challenge; (3) determine if the muscarinic activity preferentially modified the release of one CA more than another; (4) determine if there were any differences in the pattern of hypoxia-induced release of dopamine (DA) vs. norepinephrine (NE). CBs were harvested from deeply anesthetized cats. Cleaned of fat and connective tissue, they were incubated in Krebs Ringer bicarbonate solution at 37°C, and bubbled with a hyperoxic mixture of gases (95% O2-5% CO2) for 30 min. The first series of experiments to address the CB's hypoxia-induced release of CAs explored the effects of incubating CBs for 2 h with hyperoxia vs. normoxia (21% O2-6% CO2) followed by a 30 min hypoxic challenge, with or without L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA). In the second series of experiments the CBs, after the first 30 min of hyperoxia, were next challenged with hypoxia (4% O2-5% CO2) for intervals of 3-20 min with intervening recovery periods of hyperoxia to determine the effect of the duration of the hypoxic exposure on CA release. In the third series of experiments the CBs, after the first 30 min of hyperoxia, were challenged with hypoxia for intervals of 10-40 min in the presence or absence of an M1 or M2 muscarinic receptor antagonist. CAs released into the incubation medium were analyzed by means of high performance liquid chromatography-electrochemical detection using standard procedures. Incubated cat CBs challenged for 2 h with hyperoxia followed by 30 min of hypoxia, released much more measurable amounts of CAs in the presence of 40 μM L-DOPA than without it. Moving from hyperoxia to hypoxia produced a better yield than moving from normoxia to hypoxia, and at least 10-20 min exposures were needed for measurable amounts of CAs. The M1 muscarinic receptor antagonist, pirenzepine, reduced the hypoxia-induced release of CAs during each exposure. Further, the reduction appeared to be dose-related. The M2 muscarinic receptor antagonist, methoctramine, enhanced the hypoxia-induced release of CAs during each exposure. These data support a role for acetylcholine (ACh) in the hypoxia-induced release of CAs, and suggest a significant, if modest, muscarinic dimension to it. And although hypoxia induced a greater release of DA than of NE, the muscarinic modulation of the release (both decreasing it and increasing it) may have had a greater impact on NE release than on DA release. Finally, the patterns of hypoxia-induced release of DA and NE from incubated cat carotid bodies are significantly different.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-137
Number of pages16
JournalBrain research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2002


  • Carotid body
  • Catecholamine
  • HPLC
  • Hypoxia
  • Muscarinic receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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