Increased airway vagal sensory C-fiber activity contributes to the symptoms of inflammatory airway diseases. The KCNQ/Kv7/M-channel is a well-known determinant of neuronal excitability, yet whether it regulates the activity of vagal bronchopulmonary C-fibers and airway reflex sensitivity remains unknown. Here we addressed this issue using single-cell RT-PCR, patch clamp technique, extracellular recording of single vagal nerve fibers innervating the mouse lungs, and telemetric recording of cough in free-moving mice. Single-cell mRNA analysis and biophysical properties of M-current (IM) suggest that KCNQ3/Kv7.3 is the major M-channel subunit in mouse nodose neurons. The M-channel opener retigabine negatively shifted the voltage-dependent activation of IM, leading to membrane hyperpolarization, increased rheobase, and suppression of both evoked and spontaneous action potential (AP) firing in nodose neurons in an M-channel inhibitor XE991–sensitive manner. Retigabine also markedly suppressed the α,β-methylene ATP–induced AP firing in nodose C-fiber terminals innervating the mouse lungs, and coughing evoked by irritant gases in awake mice. In conclusion, KCNQ/M-channels play a role in regulating the excitability of vagal airway C-fibers at both the cell soma and nerve terminals. Drugs that open M-channels in airway sensory afferents may relieve the sufferings associated with pulmonary inflammatory diseases such as chronic coughing.
Hui Sun, An-Hsuan Lin, Fei Ru, Mayur J. Patil, Sonya Meeker, Lu-Yuan Lee, Bradley J. Undem