Acute effects of acrolein on breathing: Role of vagal bronchopulmonary afferents

B. P. Lee, R. F. Morton, L. Y. Lee

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56 Scopus citations


Spontaneous inhalation of acrolein vapor (350 ppm, 1 ml/100 g body wt) elicited an immediate and transient inhibitory effect on breathing in anesthetized rats, characterized by a prolongation of expiratory duration and accompanied by a bradycardia; ventilation was reduced by 47 ± 6%, which returned to baseline after three to seven breaths. When both vagi were cooled to 6.6 ± 0.1°C, the reflex apneic response to lung inflation was completely abolished but the bradypneic response to acrolein was not affected. After perineural capsaicin treatment of both cervical vagi to selectively block the capsaicin-sensitive C-fiber afferents, acrolein no longer evoked an inhibitory effect on breathing; conversely, an augmented inspiration was consistently elicited with the first breath of acrolein inhalation, which was subsequently abolished by cooling both vagi to 6.5°C. The inhibitory effect of inhaling acrolein at a lower concentration (200 ppm) was not detectable, whereas that of a higher concentration (600 ppm) was more intense and prolonged. All these responses were completely eliminated by bilateral vagotomy. These results suggest that inhaled acrolein activated both vagal C- fiber endings and rapidly adapting irritant receptors in the airways, but the acrolein-induced inhibitory effect on breathing was elicited primarily by the C-fiber afferent stimulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1050-1056
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992


  • C-fibers
  • airway reflexes
  • bronchoconstriction
  • capsaicin
  • inhaled irritants
  • irritant receptors
  • rat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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