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Brain Res Bull. 2007 Sep 28;74(4):284-93. Epub 2007 Jul 23.

The role of excitatory amino acids and substance P in the mediation of the cough reflex within the nucleus tractus solitarii of the rabbit.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiologiche, Università degli Studi di Firenze, Viale GB Morgagni 63, 50134 Firenze, Italy.


We hypothesized that cough evoked by mechanical stimulation of the tracheobronchial tree in the rabbit is primarily mediated by glutamatergic neurotransmission at the level of the caudal portions of the medial subnucleus of the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) and the lateral commissural NTS where cough-related afferents terminate, and that this reflex is potentiated by local release of substance P. To test our hypothesis, we performed bilateral microinjections (30-50 nl) of ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists or substance P into these locations in pentobarbitone anaesthetized, spontaneously breathing rabbits. Blockade of NMDA and non-NMDA receptors by 50mM kynurenic acid abolished the cough reflex without affecting the Breuer-Hering inflation reflex or the pulmonary chemoreflex. Blockade of non-NMDA receptors using 10mM CNQX or 5mM NBQX caused identical effects. Blockade of NMDA receptors by 10mM D-AP5 strongly reduced, but did not abolish cough responses. Microinjections of 1mM substance P increased peak and rate of rise of abdominal muscle activity as well as cough number. These results are the first to provide evidence that ionotropic glutamate receptors, especially non-NMDA receptors, located within specific regions of NTS are primarily involved in the mediation of cough evoked by mechanical stimulation of the tracheobronchial tree in the rabbit. Present findings on substance P cough-enhancing effects extend previous observations and are relevant to the tachykinin-mediated central sensitization of the cough reflex. They also may provide hints for further studies on centrally acting antitussive drugs.

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