Reflex regulation of breathing by the paratrigeminal nucleus via multiple bulbar circuits

Alexandria K. Driessen, Michael J. Farrell, Mathias Dutschmann, Davor Stanic, Alice E. McGovern, Stuart B. Mazzone

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Sensory neurons of the jugular vagal ganglia innervate the respiratory tract and project to the poorly studied medullary paratrigeminal nucleus. In the present study, we used neuroanatomical tracing, pharmacology and physiology in guinea pig to investigate the paratrigeminal neural circuits mediating jugular ganglia-evoked respiratory reflexes. Retrogradely traced laryngeal jugular ganglia neurons were largely (> 60%) unmyelinated and expressed the neuropeptide substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide, although a population (~ 30%) of larger diameter myelinated jugular neurons was defined by the expression of vGlut1. Within the brainstem, vagal afferent terminals were confined to the caudal two-thirds of the paratrigeminal nucleus. Electrical stimulation of the laryngeal mucosa evoked a vagally mediated respiratory slowing that was mimicked by laryngeal capsaicin application. These laryngeal reflexes were modestly reduced by neuropeptide receptor antagonist microinjections into the paratrigeminal nucleus, but abolished by ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists. d,l-Homocysteic acid microinjections into the paratrigeminal nucleus mimicked the laryngeal-evoked respiratory slowing, whereas capsaicin microinjections evoked a persistent tachypnoea that was insensitive to glutamatergic inhibition but abolished by neuropeptide receptor antagonists. Extensive projections from paratrigeminal neurons were anterogradely traced throughout the pontomedullary respiratory column. Dual retrograde tracing from pontine and ventrolateral medullary termination sites, as well as immunohistochemical staining for calbindin and neurokinin 1 receptors, supported the existence of different subpopulations of paratrigeminal neurons. Collectively, these data provide anatomical and functional evidence for at least two types of post-synaptic paratrigeminal neurons involved in respiratory reflexes, highlighting an unrecognised complexity in sensory processing in this region of the brainstem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4005-4022
Number of pages18
JournalBrain Structure and Function
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Airway afferents
  • Jugular vagal ganglia
  • Laryngeal reflexes
  • Neural crest
  • Respiratory sensation

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