Expression of mechanogated two-pore domain potassium channels in mouse lungs : special reference to mechanosensory airway receptors
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences . Biomedical Sciences
Histochemistry and cell biology. - Heidelberg
, p. 371-385
University of Antwerp
Afferent activities arising from sensory nerve terminals located in lungs and airways are carried almost exclusively by fibres travelling through the vagus nerve. Based on electrophysiological investigations, intrapulmonary airway-related vagal afferent receptors have been classified into three main subtypes, two of which are myelinated and mechanosensitive, i.e., rapidly and slowly adapting receptors. To allow for a full functional identification of the distinct populations of airway receptors, morphological and neurochemical characteristics still need to be determined. Nerve terminals visualised using markers for myelinated vagal afferents seem to be almost uniquely associated with two morphologically well-formed airway receptor end organs, smooth muscle-associated airway receptors (SMARs) and neuroepithelial bodies (NEBs), localised in airway smooth muscle and epithelium, respectively. Due to the lack of a selective marker for SMARs in mice, no further neurochemical coding is available today. NEBs are extensively innervated diffusely spread groups of neuroendocrine cells in the airway epithelium, and are known to receive at least two separate populations of myelinated vagal afferent nerve terminals. So far, however, no evidence has been reported for the expression of channels that may underlie direct sensing and transduction of mechanical stimuli by the receptor terminals in NEBs and SMARs. This study focused on the expression of mechanogated two-pore domain K+ (K2P) channels, TREK-1 and TRAAK, in mouse airways and more particular in the NEB micro-environment and in SMARs by multiple immunostaining. TREK-1 could be detected on smooth muscle cells surrounding intrapulmonary airways and blood vessels, while TRAAK was expressed on myelinated vagal afferents terminating both in SMARs and in the NEB micro-environment. Co-stainings with known markers for subpopulations of myelinated vagal afferents and general neuronal markers revealed that all identified SMARs exhibit TRAAK immunoreactivity, and that at least three subpopulations exist in mouse airways. Also, the intraepithelial terminals of both subpopulations of NEB-associated myelinated vagal sensory nerve fibres were shown to express TRAAK. In conclusion, the present study finally characterised an intrinsically mechanosensitive ion channel, the K2P channel TRAAK, on the terminals of identified myelinated vagal nodose airway afferents, organised as SMARs and as components of the innervation of NEBs. These data support the hypothesis that both SMARs and NEBs harbour the morphological counterparts of electrophysiologically identified myelinated vagal airway mechanoreceptors. TRAAK appears to be strongly involved in regulating airway mechanosensing since it was found to be expressed on the terminals of all subpopulations of potential vagal mechanosensors.