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Physiol Behav. 2014 Sep;136:155-69. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.03.011. Epub 2014 Mar 18.

Putative roles of neuropeptides in vagal afferent signaling.

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Dept Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Davis, CA 95616, USA. Electronic address:


The vagus nerve is a major pathway by which information is communicated between the brain and peripheral organs. Sensory neurons of the vagus are located in the nodose ganglia. These vagal afferent neurons innervate the heart, the lung and the gastrointestinal tract, and convey information about peripheral signals to the brain important in the control of cardiovascular tone, respiratory tone, and satiation, respectively. Glutamate is thought to be the primary neurotransmitter involved in conveying all of this information to the brain. It remains unclear how a single neurotransmitter can regulate such an extensive list of physiological functions from a wide range of visceral sites. Many neurotransmitters have been identified in vagal afferent neurons and have been suggested to modulate the physiological functions of glutamate. Specifically, the anorectic peptide transmitters, cocaine and amphetamine regulated transcript (CART) and the orexigenic peptide transmitters, melanin concentrating hormone (MCH) are differentially regulated in vagal afferent neurons and have opposing effects on food intake. Using these two peptides as a model, this review will discuss the potential role of peptide transmitters in providing a more precise and refined modulatory control of the broad physiological functions of glutamate, especially in relation to the control of feeding.


CART; Cardiovascular; Food intake; Glutamate; Gut–brain signaling; MCH; Nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS); Respiratory; Satiation; Vagus nerve

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