TRPV1 induction in airway vagal low-threshold mechanosensory neurons by allergen challenge and neurotrophic factors

Tina Marie Lieu, Allen C. Myers, Sonya Meeker, Bradley J. Undem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We addressed the hypothesis that allergic inflammation in guinea pig airways leads to a phenotypic switch in vagal tracheal cough-causing, low-threshold mechanosensitive Aδ neurons, such that they begin expressing functional transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV1) channels. Guinea pigs were actively sensitized to ovalbumin (OVA) and beginning 21 days later exposed via aerosol to OVA daily for 3 days. Tracheal-specific neurons were identified in the nodose ganglion using retrograde tracing techniques. Tracheal specific neurons were isolated, and mRNA expression was evaluated at the single-neuron level using RT-PCR analysis. Electrophysiological studies have revealed that the vast majority of vagal nodose afferent nerves innervating the trachea are capsaicin-insensitive Aδ-fibers. Consistent with this, we found <20% of these neurons express TRPV1 mRNA or respond to capsaicin in a calcium assay. Allergen exposure induced de novo TRPV1 mRNA in a majority of the tracheal-specific nodose neurons (P < 0.05). The allergen-induced TRPV1 induction was mimicked by applying either brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) or glialderived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) to the tracheal lumen. The BDNF-induced phenotypic change observed at the level of mRNA expression was mimicked using a calcium assay to assess functional TRPV1 ion channels. Finally, OVA exposure induced BDNF and GDNF production in the tracheal epithelium, the immediate vicinity of the nodose Aδ -fibers terminations. The induction of TRPV1 in nodose tracheal Aδ -fibers would substantively expand the nature of stimuli capable of activating these cough-causing nerves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L941-L948
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2012


  • Asthma
  • C-fiber
  • Capsaicin
  • Vagus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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