Role of substance P in the laryngeal chemoreflex

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology








Laryngeal chemoreflex; Neurokinin; Reflex; Substance P; Tachykinin


The laryngeal chemoreflex (LCR) is a potentially life-threatening reflex that is elicited in immature animals by the topical application of water to the laryngeal mucosa. The reflex response is characterized by immediate apnea and laryngeal adduction and delayed cardiovascular instability. The cardiorespiratory changes of the LCR may be life-threatening, particularly in very immature animals such as piglets under 2 weeks of age. The afferent and efferent limbs of the LCR are mediated through the vagus nerve, but the neuromediators responsible for the reflex changes have not yet been clearly elucidated. Previous agonist and antagonist studies in immature dogs demonstrated that substance P, a sensory tachykinin, mediates the life- threatening esophagolaryngeal adductor reflex elicited by distal esophageal sensory nerve stimulation. This study was conducted to determine if substance P also plays a role in mediating the LCR. The LCR response was compared before and after treatment with intravenous substance P antagonist (Pfizer CP-96,345-1) in eight piglets (mean 27.7 days of age). The laryngeal and cardiovascular responses of the animals following intravenous administration of the tachykinins substance P, neurokinin A, and neurokinin B were also assessed. Pretreatment with substance P antagonist did not alter the LCR's duration of apnea (p > .10), laryngeal adductor response, or early change in mean arterial pressure (p > .10), although the early maximal heart rate response was significantly altered (p < .01). Intravenous substance P, neurokinin A, and neurokinin B did not reproduce the laryngeal respiratory response of the LCR. We conclude that substance P, neurokinin A, and neurokinin B are not key neurotransmitters of the LCR.

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