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J Neurosci. 2000 Aug 15;20(16):6249-55.

Transduction sites of vagal mechanoreceptors in the guinea pig esophagus.

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Department of Human Physiology and Centre for Neuroscience, Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia 5001.


Extrinsic afferent neurons play an essential role in both sensation and reflex control of visceral organs, but their specialized morphological peripheral endings have never been functionally identified. Extracellular recordings were made from fine nerve trunks running between the vagus nerve and esophagus of the guinea pig. Mechanoreceptors, which responded to esophageal distension, fired spontaneously, had low thresholds to circumferential stretch, and were slowly adapting. Calibrated von Frey hairs (0.12 mN) were used to probe the serosal surface at 100-200 sites, which were mapped on a video image of the live preparation. Each stretch-sensitive unit had one to three highly localized receptive fields ("hot spots"), which were marked with Indian ink applied on the tip of the von Frey hair. Recorded nerve trunks were then filled anterogradely, using biotinamide in an artificial intracellular solution. Receptive fields were consistently associated with intraganglionic laminar endings (IGLEs) in myenteric ganglia, but not with other filled neuronal structures. The average distance of receptive fields to IGLEs was 73 +/- 14 microm (24 receptive fields, from 12 units; n = 5), compared to 374 +/- 17 microm for 240 randomly generated sites (n = 5; p < 0.001). After maintained probing on a single receptive field, spontaneous discharge of units was inhibited, as were responses to distension. During adapted discharge to maintained distension, interspike intervals were distributed in a narrow range. This indicates that multiple receptive fields interact to encode mechanical distortion in a graded manner. IGLEs are specialized transduction sites of mechanosensitive vagal afferent neurons in the guinea pig esophagus.

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