Mast cell-mediated long-lasting increases in excitability of vagal C fibers in guinea pig esophagus

Shaoyong Yu, Marian Kollarik, Ann Ouyang, Allen C. Myers, Bradley J. Undem

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46 Scopus citations


Several esophageal pathologies are associated with an increased number of mast cells in the esophageal wall. We addressed the hypothesis that activation of esophageal mast cells leads to an increase in the excitability of local sensory C fibers. Guinea pigs were actively sensitized to ovalbumin. The mast cells in the esophagus were selectively activated ex vivo by superfusion with ovalbumin. Action potential discharge in guinea pig vagal nodose esophageal C-fiber nerve endings was monitored in the isolated (ex vivo) vagally innervated esophagus by extracellular recordings. Ovalbumin activated esophageal mast cells, leading to the rapid release of ∼20% of the tissue histamine stores. This was associated with a consistent and significant increase in excitability of the nodose C fibers as reflected in a two- to threefold increase in action potential discharge frequency evoked by mechanical (increases in intraluminal pressure) stimulation. The increase in excitability persisted unchanged for at least 90 min (longest time period tested) after ovalbumin was washed from the tissue. This effect could be prevented by the histamine H1 receptor antagonist pyrilamine, but once the increase in excitability occurred, it persisted in the nominal absence of histamine and could not be reversed even with large concentrations of the histamine receptor antagonist. In conclusion, activation of esophageal mast cells leads to a pronounced and long-lived increase in nociceptive C-fiber excitability such that any sensation or reflex evoked via the vagal nociceptors will likely be enhanced. The effect is initiated by histamine acting via H1 receptor activation and maintained in the absence of the initiating stimulus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G850-G856
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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