Experimental physiology

Nicotine enhances both excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs to inspiratory-activated airway vagal preganglionic neurons.

PMID 22750421


The airway vagal preganglionic neurons (AVPNs) supply the essential excitatory drive to the postganglionic neurons and dominate the neural control of the airway both physiologically and pathophysiologically. The AVPNs express multiple subunits of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs), but the influences of exogenous nicotine and endogenous acetylcholine are unknown. This study examined the effects of nicotine and endogenous acetylcholine on retrogradely labelled, functionally identified inspiratory-activated AVPNs (IA-AVPNs) using the patch-clamp technique. Nicotine (10 μmol l(-1)) significantly increased the frequency and amplitude of the spontaneous EPSCs of IA-AVPNs, and these effects were insensitive to methyllycaconitine (MLA, 100 nmol l(-1)), an antagonist of the α7 type of nAChR, but was prevented by dihydro-β-erythroidine (DHβE, 3 μmol l(-1)), an antagonist of the α4β2 type of nAChR. Nicotine caused a tonic inward current in IA-AVPNs, which was reduced by MLA or DHβE alone, but was not abolished by co-application of MLA and DHβE. Nicotine caused a significant increase in the frequency of GABAergic and glycinergic spontaneous IPSCs and significantly increased the amplitude of glycinergic spontaneous IPSCs, all of which were prevented by DHβE. Nicotine had no effects on the miniature EPSCs or miniature IPSCs following pretreatment with TTX. Under current clamp, nicotine caused depolarization and increased the firing rate of IA-AVPNs during inspiratory intervals. Neostigmine (10 μmol l(-1)), an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, mimicked the effects of nicotine. These results demonstrate that nicotine and endogenous ACh enhance the excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs of IA-AVPNs and cause a postsynaptic excitatory current and that the nicotinic effects are mediated presynaptically by activation of the α4β2 type of nAChR and postsynaptically by activation of multiple nAChRs, including α7 and α4β2 types.