Vagal innervation of guinea pig bronchial smooth muscle

B. J. Undem, A. C. Myers, H. Barthlow, D. Weinreich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


We isolated the guinea pig right bronchus with the vagus nerves intact and evaluated the changes in isometric tension of the smooth muscle in response to nerve stimulation. Brief (10-s) trains of electrical field stimulation or vagus nerve stimulation caused a biphasic contraction: the 'first phase' sensitive to atropine and the 'second phase' sensitive to capsaicin. The two phases could be dissociated by adjusting the stimulus intensity; greater stimulus intensities (pulse durations or voltage) were required to evoke the capsaicin-sensitive phase. When stimulated at 30-min intervals, the magnitude of both phases of the contractions declined over a 2-h period of repeated stimulation; however, this was prevented by indomethacin. Stimulation of the left vagus nerve resulted in a monophasic contraction of the right bronchus, with little evidence of a capsaicin-sensitive phase. Blocking neurotransmission through the bronchial ganglion, as monitored by intracellular recording techniques, abolished the first-phase contraction but had no effect on the capsaicin-sensitive phase. Selective blockade of muscarinic M1 receptors had no effect on vagus nerve-mediated contractions. The results demonstrate that the left and right vagus nerves carry preganglionic fibers to the right bronchial ganglion. The right but not the left vagus nerve also carries capsaicin-sensitive afferent fibers that, when stimulated, result in a persistent contraction of the right bronchus. Finally, we provide functional and electrophysiological evidence supporting the hypothesis that capsaicin-sensitive afferent neurons communicate with postganglionic motoneurons within the bronchus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1336-1346
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1990


  • airway cholinergic receptors
  • airway innervation
  • axon reflex
  • capsaicin
  • neurokinins
  • parasympathetic ganglion
  • sensory C fibers
  • substance P

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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