The activation of capsaicin-sensitive lung vagal (CSLV) afferents can elicit airway reflexes. Hypersensitivity of these afferents is kn own to contribute to the airway hypersensitivity during airway inflammation. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) has been suggested as a potential therapeutic agent for airway hypersensitivity diseases, such as asthma, because of its relaxing effect on airway smooth muscle and anti-inflammatory effect. However, it is still unknown whether H2S affects airway reflexes. Our previous study demonstrated that exogenous application of H2S sensitized CSLV afferents and enhanced Ca2+ transients in CSLV neurons. The present study aimed to determine whether the H2S-induced sensitization leads to functional changes in airway reflexes and elevates the electrical excitability of the CSLV neurons. Our results showed that, first and foremost, in anesthetized, spontaneously breathing rats, the inhalation of aerosolized sodium hydrosulfide (NaHS, a donor of H2S; 5 mg/mL, 3 min.) caused an enhancement in apneic response evoked by several stimulants of the CSLV afferents. This enhancement effect was found 5 min. after NaHS inhalation and returned to control 30 min. later. However, NaHS no longer enhanced the apneic response after perineural capsaicin treatment on both cervical vagi that blocked the conduction of CSLV fibers. Furthermore, the enhancing effect of NaHS on apneic response was totally abolished by pretreatment with intravenous HC-030031 (a TRPA1 antagonist; 8 mg/kg), whereas the potentiating effect was not affected by the pretreatment with the vehicle of HC-030031. We also found that intracerebroventricular infusion pretreated with HC-030031 failed to alter the potentiating effect of NaHS on the apneic response. Besides, the cough reflex elicited by cap saicin aerosol was enhanced by inhalation of NaHS in conscious guinea pigs. Nevertheless, this effect was entirely eliminated by pretreatment with HC-030031, not by its vehicle. Last but not least, voltage-clamp electrophysiological analysis of isolated rat CSLV neurons showed a similar pattern of potentiating effects of NaHS on capsaicin-induced inward current, and the involvement of TRPA1 receptors was also distinctly shown. In conclusion, these results suggest that H2S non-specifically enhances the airway reflex responses, at least in part, through action on the TRPA1 receptors expressed on the CSLV afferent s. Therefore, H2S should be used with caution when applying for therapeutic purposes in airway hypersensitivity diseases.
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