Carotid body chemosensory activity and ventilatory chemoreflexes in cats persist after combined cholinergic-purinergic block.
ABSTRACT Acetylcholine (ACh) and ATP have been proposed as excitatory co-transmitters operating at synapses between glomus cells and sensory nerve endings of the carotid body (CB). To test such hypothesis, we performed experiments on cats under pentobarbitone anesthesia and breathing spontaneously. Cholinergic and purinergic agonists and antagonists were given into one common carotid artery. Chemoreflex ventilatory changes initiated from the ipsilateral CB or chemosensory activity from the ipsilateral carotid nerve were recorded. Agonists ACh, nicotine, epibatidine, ATP, betagamma-methylene-ATP and gammaS-ATP induced transient chemoreflex enhancements of ventilation or increased chemosensory activity. When given in combination, mecamylamine and suramin suppressed both nicotine- and ATP-induced ventilatory chemoreflexes or chemosensory responses. However, neither chemoreflex hyperventilation induced by brief hypoxic exposures or steady-state hypoxic levels, nor chemosensory excitation elicited by these maneuvers were eliminated. Asphyxia-induced chemosensory excitation was not reduced by combined blockade of ACh and ATP receptors. Furthermore, ventilatory or chemosensory depression evoked by 100% O2 tests was unmodified, thus evidencing that basal chemosensory drive in normoxia was not suppressed by combined cholinergic-purinergic blockade. Therefore, although ACh and ATP may participate in chemoexcitation of the CB, their involvement fails to explain the origin of chemosensory discharges from synaptic transmission between glomus cells and chemosensory nerve endings of the CB.