KEY POINTS: Adenosine and ATP are excitatory neurotransmitters involved in the carotid body (CB) response to hypoxia. During ageing the CB exhibits a decline in its functionality, demonstrated by decreased hypoxic responses. In aged rats (20-24 months old) there is a decrease in: basal and hypoxic release of adenosine and ATP from the CB; expression of adenosine and ATP receptors in the petrosal ganglion; carotid sinus nerve (CSN) activity in response to hypoxia; and ventilatory responses to ischaemic hypoxia. There is also an increase in SNAP25, ENT1 and CD73 expression. It is concluded that, although CSN activity and ventilatory responses to hypoxia decrease with age, adjustments in purinergic metabolism in the CB in aged animals are present aiming to maintain the contribution of adenosine and ATP. The possible significance of the findings in the context of ageing and in CB-associated pathologies is considered. ABSTRACT: During ageing the carotid body (CB) exhibits a decline in its functionality. Here we investigated the effect of ageing on functional CB characteristics as well as the contribution of adenosine and ATP to CB chemosensory activity. Experiments were performed in 3-month-old and 20- to 24-month-old male Wistar rats. Ageing decreased: the number of tyrosine hydroxylase immune-positive cells, but not type II cells or nestin-positive cells in the CB; the expression of P2X2 and A2A receptors in the petrosal ganglion; and the basal and hypoxic release of adenosine and ATP from the CB. Ageing increased ecto-nucleotidase (CD73) immune-positive cells and the expression of synaptosome associated protein 25 (SNAP25) and equilibrative nucleoside transporter 1 (ENT1) in the CB. Additionally, ageing did not modify basal carotid sinus nerve (CSN) activity or the activity in response to hypercapnia, but decreased CSN activity in hypoxia. The contribution of adenosine and ATP to stimuli-evoked CSN chemosensory activity in aged animals followed the same pattern of 3-month-old animals. Bilateral common carotid occlusions during 5, 10 and 15 s increased ventilation proportionally to the duration of ischaemia, an effect decreased by ageing. ATP contributed around 50% to ischaemic-ventilatory responses in young and aged rats; the contribution of adenosine was dependent on the intensity of ischaemia, being maximal in ischaemias of 5 s (50%) and much smaller in 15 s ischaemias. Our results demonstrate that both ATP and adenosine contribute to CB chemosensory activity in ageing. Though CB responses to hypoxia, but not to hypercapnia, decrease with age, the relative contribution of both ATP and adenosine for CB activity is maintained.
- carotid body