The gut‐brain axis rewired: adding a functional vagal nicotinic “sensory synapse”
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It is generally accepted that intestinal sensory vagal fibers are primary afferent, responding nonsynaptically to luminal stimuli. The gut also contains intrinsic primary afferent neurons (IPANs) that respond to luminal stimuli. A psychoactive Lactobacillus rhamnosus (JB-1) that affects brain function excites both vagal fibers and IPANs. We wondered whether, contrary to its primary afferent designation, the sensory vagus response to JB-1 might depend on IPAN to vagal fiber synaptic transmission. We recorded ex vivo single- and multiunit afferent action potentials from mesenteric nerves supplying mouse jejunal segments. Intramural synaptic blockade with Ca(2+) channel blockers reduced constitutive or JB-1-evoked vagal sensory discharge. Firing of 60% of spontaneously active units was reduced by synaptic blockade. Synaptic or nicotinic receptor blockade reduced firing in 60% of vagal sensory units that were stimulated by luminal JB-1. In control experiments, increasing or decreasing IPAN excitability, respectively increased or decreased nerve firing that was abolished by synaptic blockade or vagotomy. We conclude that >50% of vagal afferents function as interneurons for stimulation by JB-1, receiving input from an intramural functional "sensory synapse." This was supported by myenteric plexus nicotinic receptor immunohistochemistry. These data offer a novel therapeutic target to modify pathological gut-brain axis activity.-Perez-Burgos, A., Mao, Y.-K., Bienenstock, J., Kunze, W. A. The gut-brain axis rewired: adding a functional vagal nicotinic "sensory synapse."