Anatomical characterization of vagal nodose afferent innervation and ending morphologies at the murine heart using a transgenic approach

KAZCI Y. E., ŞAHOĞLU GÖKTAŞ S., Aydin M. S., KARADOĞAN B., NEBOL A., Turhan M. U., ...More

Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical, vol.242, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 242
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.autneu.2022.103019
  • Journal Name: Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Veterinary Science Database
  • Keywords: Vagal afferents, Nodose ganglia, Heart, Whole organ imaging, Myocardial infarct, Neural remodeling
  • Istanbul Medipol University Affiliated: Yes


Heart is an extensively innervated organ and its function is strictly coordinated by autonomic neural circuits. After pathological events such as myocardial infarction (MI), cardiac nerves undergo a structural and functional remodeling contributing to cardiac dysfunction. Although the efferent component of the cardiac nerves has been well described, sensory innervation of the heart has not been defined in detail. Considering its importance, comprehensive description of vagal afferent innervation on the whole heart would enable a better description of autonomic imbalances manifesting as sympathoexcitation and vagal withdrawal in post-ischemic states. To address this issue, we globally mapped the vagal nodose afferent fibers innervating the whole murine heart with unprecedented resolution. By using the Phox2b-Cre::tdTomato transgenic mouse line, we described the detailed distribution and distinct vagal sensory ending morphologies at both the dorsal and ventral sides of the mouse heart. By neural tracing analysis, we quantitated the distribution and prevalence of vagal afferent nerve fibers with varying diameters across dorsal and ventral surfaces of the heart. Moreover, we demonstrated that vagal afferents formed flower spray and end-net-like endings within the atria and ventricles. As distinct from the atria, vagal afferents formed intramuscular array-like endings within the ventricles. Furthermore, we showed that vagal afferents undergo structural remodeling by forming axonal sprouts around the infarct area in post-MI hearts. These findings improve our understanding of the potential effect of vagal afferent remodeling on autonomic imbalance and generation of cardiac arrhythmias and could prospectively contribute to the development of more effective neuromodulatory therapies.