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J Auton Nerv Syst. 1987 Aug;20(2):155-66.

Retrograde tracing shows that CGRP-immunoreactive nerves of rat trachea and lung originate from vagal and dorsal root ganglia.

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Department of Histochemistry, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London, U.K.


The origins of sensory innervation of the lower respiratory tract are thought to be principally the nodose and jugular ganglia of the vagus nerve. It has been suggested and partially demonstrated that there is also a component arising from dorsal root ganglia, but the segmental levels involved are not known precisely. We have therefore investigated the origins of sensory nerves within the rat respiratory tract, particularly those containing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), using the technique of retrograde axonal tracing combined with immunohistochemistry. Injections of True blue were made into extra-thoracic trachea (n = 4 rats) and percutaneously into the right and left lung (n = 4 each). Retrogradely labelled neuronal perikarya were detected in vagal and dorsal root ganglia, and sympathetic chain ganglia. CGRP-immunoreactive cells were seen only in vagal and dorsal root ganglia. Tracheal innervation arose bilaterally in the vagal sensory ganglia but those on the right side represented the principal source; the majority of CGRP-containing neurons occurred in the jugular ganglion. A very small component of labelling occurred in spinal ganglia at levels C2-C6. The sensory innervation of the lungs was seen to arise predominantly from the ipsilateral dorsal root ganglia (45% of cells CGRP-immunoreactive) at levels T1-T6. In contrast to the trachea, the contribution of vagal sensory neurones to the lungs appeared to be less than that of the spinal ganglia. These results show that the sensory innervation of the rat lungs has a major origin in the dorsal root ganglia, in which almost half of the involved neurons contain CGRP, and confirm that most CGRP-immunoreactive nerves in the trachea arise in the right jugular ganglion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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