Pulmonary intraepithelial vagal nodose afferent nerve terminals are confined to neuroepithelial bodies: an anterograde tracing and confocal microscopy study in adult rats.Cell Tissue Res 1998; 293(3):395-405CT
Our present understanding of the morphology of neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs) in mammalian lungs is comprehensive. Several hypotheses have been put forward regarding their function but none has been proven conclusively. Microscopic data on the innervation that appears to affect the reaction of NEBs to stimuli have given rise to conflicting interpretations. The aim of this study has been to check the validity of the hypothesis that pulmonary NEBs receive an extensive vagal sensory innervation. The fluorescent neuronal tracer DiI was injected into the vagal sensory nodose ganglion and NEBs were visualized in toto by using immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy on 100-micrometer-thick frozen sections of the lungs of adult rats. The most striking finding was the extensive intraepithelial terminal arborizations of DiI-labelled vagal afferents in intrapulmonary airways, apparently always co-appearing with calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)-immunoreactive NEBs. Not all NEBs received a traced nerve fibre. Intrapulmonary CGRP-containing nerve fibres, including those innervating NEBs, always appeared to belong to a nerve fibre population different from the DiI-traced fibres and hence did not arise from the nodose ganglion. Therefore, at least some of the pulmonary NEBs in adult rats are supplied with sensory nerve fibres that originate from the vagal nodose ganglion and form beaded ramifications between the NEB cells, thus providing support for the hypothesis of a receptor function for NEBs.