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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2009 Sep;297(3):C654-64. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00059.2009. Epub 2009 Jul 1.

17Beta-estradiol restores excitability of a sexually dimorphic subset of myelinated vagal afferents in ovariectomized rats.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Devices and Engineering, School of Life Science, Harbin Technological University, Harbin, China.


We recently identified a myelinated vagal afferent subpopulation (Ah type) far more prevalent in female than male rats and showed that this difference extends to functionally specific visceral sensory afferents, baroreceptors of the aortic arch. Excitability of myelinated Ah-type afferents is markedly reduced after ovariectomy (OVX). Here we tested the hypothesis that 17beta-estradiol can selectively restore excitability of these sex-specific vagal afferents. Acutely isolated vagal afferent neurons (VGN) from intact and OVX adult female rats were used with patch-clamp technique and current-clamp protocols to assess the effect of acute application of 17beta-estradiol on neuronal excitability. At over physiologically relevant 17beta-estradiol concentrations for rat (1-10 nM) excitability of myelinated Ah-type vagal afferents is restored to discharge frequencies comparable to those in intact females, albeit with some interesting differences related to burst and sustained patterns of neuronal discharge. Restoration of excitability occurs within 3 min of hormone application and is stereo specific, because 1,000 nM 17alpha-estradiol fails to alter excitability. Furthermore, activation of G protein-coupled estrogen receptor GPR30 with highly selective agonist G-1 similarly restores excitability of Ah-type afferents. The effectiveness of 17beta-estradiol and G-1 is completely eliminated by application of high-affinity estrogen receptor ligand ICI-182,780. 17beta-Estradiol conjugated with BSA is approximately 70% as effective as 17beta-estradiol alone in restoring Ah-type VGN excitability. These data support our conclusions that the cellular mechanisms leading to rapid restoration of neuronal excitability of myelinated Ah-type VGN after OVX occur, at least in part, via membrane-bound estrogen receptors. We contend that recovery of high-frequency discharge at physiologically relevant 17beta-estradiol concentrations implies that this unique subtype of low-threshold myelinated vagal afferent may account for some of the sex-related differences in visceral organ system function. Sex differences in cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function and the potential role of GPR30 in modulation of sex-specific myelinated Ah-type vagal afferents are discussed.

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