Role of glial-like type II cells as paracrine modulators of carotid body chemoreception
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Mammalian carotid bodies (CB) are chemosensory organs that mediate compensatory cardiorespiratory reflexes in response to low blood PO2 (hypoxemia) and elevated CO2/H+ (acid hypercapnia). The chemoreceptors are glomus or type I cells that occur in clusters enveloped by neighboring glial-like type II cells. During chemoexcitation type I cells depolarize, leading to Ca2+-dependent release of several neurotransmitters, some excitatory and others inhibitory, that help shape the afferent carotid sinus nerve (CSN) discharge. Among the predominantly excitatory neurotransmitters are the purines ATP and adenosine, whereas dopamine (DA) is inhibitory in most species. There is a consensus that ATP and adenosine, acting via postsynaptic ionotropic P2X2/3 receptors and pre- and/or postsynaptic A2 receptors respectively, are major contributors to the increased CSN discharge during chemoexcitation. However, it has been proposed that the CB sensory output is also tuned by paracrine signaling pathways, involving glial-like type II cells. Indeed, type II cells express functional receptors for several excitatory neurochemicals released by type I cells including ATP, 5-HT, ACh, angiotensin II, and endothelin-1. Stimulation of the corresponding G protein-coupled receptors increases intracellular Ca2+, leading to the further release of ATP through pannexin-1 channels. Recent evidence suggests that other CB neurochemicals, e.g., histamine and DA, may actually inhibit Ca2+ signaling in subpopulations of type II cells. Here, we review evidence supporting neurotransmitter-mediated crosstalk between type I and type II cells of the rat CB. We also consider the potential contribution of paracrine signaling and purinergic catabolic pathways to the integrated sensory output of the CB during chemotransduction.
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