In most species, including humans, lower airway smooth muscle (ASM) contains nerve terminals from two distinct populations of parasympathetic ganglionic neurons based on neurotransmitter phenotype: cholinergic and non-adrenergic non-cholinergic (NANC), causing contraction and relaxation, respectively, of ASM. Using immunohistological staining, the density and distribution of NANC-associated neurotransmitters, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and nitric oxide synthase were 6% of total nerve profiles compared to 19% cholinergic nerves in ASM in mouse (C57BL/6) central airways. The location of the NANC parasympathetic neurons innervating the tracheal ASM, as determined by retrograde neuronal tracer from the trachealis muscle, was the myenteric plexus of the esophagus, closely associated with the outer striated longitudinal muscle layers; the majority of the retrograde-labeled neurons were VIP- and NOS-IR. The results of these experiments provide the first direct evidence that VIP-IR and NOS-IR neurons intrinsic to the mouse esophagus project axons to the adjacent trachealis muscle.
- Nitric oxide
- Vasoactive intestinal peptide
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine