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Circ Res. 1999 Apr 30;84(8):921-8.

Acid-evoked currents in cardiac sensory neurons: A possible mediator of myocardial ischemic sensation.

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Vollum Institute, Division of Cardiology, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Ore. 97201-3098, USA.


Sensory neurons that innervate the heart sense ischemia and mediate angina. To use patch-clamp methods to study ion channels on these cells, we fluorescently labeled cardiac sensory neurons (CSNs) in rats so that they could later be identified in dissociated primary culture of either nodose or dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Currents evoked by a variety of different agonists imply the importance of lowered pH (</=7.0) in signaling ischemia. Acidic pH evoked extremely large depolarizing current in almost all cardiac afferent neurons from the DRG (CDRGNs). In contrast, only about half of the unlabeled DRG neurons responded to acid, and their current amplitudes were much less than that in CDRGNs. In all respects tested--kinetics, selectivity, and pharmacology--the acid-evoked current was similar to that of previously described native and cloned acid-sensing ion channels. Cardiac afferents from the nodose ganglia differed from CDRGNs in having smaller acid-evoked currents but clearly larger currents evoked by ATP. Serotonin, acetylcholine, bradykinin, and adenosine elicited currents in fewer CSNs than did ATP or lowered pH, and the currents were relatively small. Capsaicin, an activator of small nociceptive sensory neurons that innervate skin, evoked only small and rare currents in CDRGNs. The extremely large amplitude and prevalent expression of acid-evoked current in CSNs imply a critical role for acidity in sensation associated with myocardial ischemia.

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