Hypoxia-regulated catecholamine secretion in chromaffin cells
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Adrenal catecholamine (CAT) secretion is a general physiological response of animals to environmental stressors such as hypoxia. This represents an important adaptive mechanism to maintain homeostasis and protect vital organs such as the brain. In adult mammals, CAT secretory responses are triggered by activation of the sympathetic nervous system that supplies cholinergic innervation of adrenomedullary chromaffin cells (AMC) via the splanchnic nerve. In the neonate, the splanchnic innervation of AMC is immature or absent, yet hypoxia stimulates a non-neurogenic CAT secretion that is critical for adaptation to extra-uterine life. This non-neurogenic, hypoxia-sensing mechanism in AMC is gradually lost or suppressed postnatally along a time course that parallels the development of splanchnic innervation. Moreover, denervation of adult AMC results in a gradual return of the direct hypoxia-sensing mechanism. The signaling pathways by which neonatal AMC sense acute hypoxia leading to non-neurogenic CAT secretion and the mechanisms that underlie the re-acquisition of hypoxia-sensing properties by denervated adult AMC, are beginning to be understood. This review will focus on current views concerning the mechanisms responsible for direct acute hypoxia sensing and CAT secretion in perinatal AMC and how they are regulated by innervation during postnatal development. It will also briefly discuss plasticity mechanisms likely to contribute to CAT secretion during exposures to chronic and intermittent hypoxia.
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