Lung vagal sensory fibres are broadly categorized as C fibres (nociceptors) and A fibres (non-nociceptive; rapidly and slowly adapting low-threshold stretch receptors). These afferent fibre types differ in degree of myelination, conduction velocity, neuropeptide content, sensitivity to chemical and mechanical stimuli, as well as evoked reflex responses. Recent studies in nociceptive fibres of the somatosensory system indicated that the tetrodotoxin-resistant (TTX-R) voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSC) are preferentially expressed in the nociceptive fibres of the somatosensory system (dorsal root ganglia). Whereas TTX-R sodium currents have been documented in lung vagal sensory nerves fibres, a rigorous comparison of their expression in nociceptive versus non-nociceptive vagal sensory neurons has not been carried out. Using multiple approaches including patch clamp electrophysiology, immunohistochemistry, and single-cell gene expression analysis in the guinea pig, we obtained data supporting the hypothesis that the TTX-R sodium currents are similarly distributed between nodose ganglion A-fibres and C-fibres innervating the lung. Moreover, mRNA and immunoreactivity for the TTX-R VGSC molecules NaV 1.8 and NaV 1.9 were present in nearly all neurons. We conclude that contrary to findings in the somatosensory neurons, TTX-R VGSCs are not preferentially expressed in the nociceptive C-fibre population innervating the lungs.
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