Function of the rat carotid body chemoreceptors in ageing

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Some age-related deficits in the ventilatory responses have been attributed to a decline in the functionality of the carotid body (CB) arterial chemoreceptors, but a systematic study of the CB function in ageing is lacking. In rats aged 3-24 months, we have performed quantitative morphometry on specific chemoreceptor tissue, assessed the function of chemoreceptor cells by measuring the content, synthesis and release of catecholamines (a chemoreceptor cell neurotransmitter) in normoxia and hypoxia, and determined the functional activity of the intact organ by measuring chemosensory activity in the carotid sinus nerve (CSN) in normoxia, hypoxia and hypercapnic acidosis. We found that with age CBs enlarge, but at the same time there is a concomitant decrease in the percentage of chemoreceptor tissue. CB content and turnover time for their catecholamines increase with age. Hypoxic stimulation of chemoreceptor cells elicits a smaller release of catecholamines in rats after 12 months of age, but a non-specific depolarizing stimulus elicits a comparable release at all ages. In parallel, there was a marked decrease in the responsiveness to hypoxia, but not to an acidic-hypercapnic stimulus, assessed as chemosensory activity in the CSN. We conclude that in aged mammals chemoreceptor cells become hypofunctional, leading to a decreased peripheral drive of ventilation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-723
Number of pages12
JournalJournal Of Neurochemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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