The nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS) receives visceral information via the solitary tract (ST) that comprises the sensory components of the cranial nerves VII, IX and X. The Transient Receptor Potential Ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) ion channels are non-selective cation channels that are expressed primarily in pain-related sensory neurons and nerve fibers. Thus, TRPA1 expressed in the primary sensory afferents may modulate the function of second order NTS neurons. This hypothesis was tested and confirmed in the present study using acute brainstem slices and caudal NTS neurons by RT-PCR, immunostaining and patch-clamp electrophysiology. The expression of TRPA1 was detected in presynaptic locations, but not the somata of caudal NTS neurons that did not express TRPA1 mRNA or proteins. Moreover, caudal NTS neurons did not show somatodendritic responsiveness to TRPA1 agonists, while TRPA1 immunostaining was detected only in the afferent fibers. Electrophysiological recordings detected activation of presynaptic TRPA1 in glutamatergic terminals synapsing on caudal NTS neurons evidenced by the enhanced glutamatergic synaptic neurotransmission in the presence of TRPA1 agonists. The requirement of TRPA1 for modulation of spontaneous synaptic activity was confirmed using TRPA1 knockout mice where TRPA1 agonists failed to alter synaptic efficacy. Thus, this study provides the first evidence of the TRPA1-dependent modulation of the primary afferent inputs to the caudal NTS. These results suggest that the second order caudal NTS neurons act as a TRPA1-dependent interface for visceral noxious-innocuous integration at the level of the caudal brainstem.
- Ion channel
- Nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS)
- Synaptic transmission
- Transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1)