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1.  Carotid body, insulin, and metabolic diseases: unraveling the links 
The carotid bodies (CB) are peripheral chemoreceptors that sense changes in arterial blood O2, CO2, and pH levels. Hypoxia, hypercapnia, and acidosis activate the CB, which respond by increasing the action potential frequency in their sensory nerve, the carotid sinus nerve (CSN). CSN activity is integrated in the brain stem to induce a panoply of cardiorespiratory reflexes aimed, primarily, to normalize the altered blood gases, via hyperventilation, and to regulate blood pressure and cardiac performance, via sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation. Besides its role in the cardiorespiratory control the CB has been proposed as a metabolic sensor implicated in the control of energy homeostasis and, more recently, in the regulation of whole body insulin sensitivity. Hypercaloric diets cause CB overactivation in rats, which seems to be at the origin of the development of insulin resistance and hypertension, core features of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Consistent with this notion, CB sensory denervation prevents metabolic and hemodynamic alterations in hypercaloric feed animal. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is another chronic disorder characterized by increased CB activity and intimately related with several metabolic and cardiovascular abnormalities. In this manuscript we review in a concise manner the putative pathways linking CB chemoreceptors deregulation with the pathogenesis of insulin resistance and arterial hypertension. Also, the link between chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH) and insulin resistance is discussed. Then, a final section is devoted to debate strategies to reduce CB activity and its use for prevention and therapeutics of metabolic diseases with an emphasis on new exciting research in the modulation of bioelectronic signals, likely to be central in the future.
PMCID: PMC4212612  PMID: 25400585
carotid body; chronic intermittent hypoxia; insulin resistance; metabolic dysfunction; obstructive sleep apnea
2.  Fernando de Castro and the discovery of the arterial chemoreceptors 
When de Castro entered the carotid body (CB) field, the organ was considered to be a small autonomic ganglion, a gland, a glomus or glomerulus, or a paraganglion. In his 1928 paper, de Castro concluded: “In sum, the Glomus caroticum is innervated by centripetal fibers, whose trophic centers are located in the sensory ganglia of the glossopharyngeal, and not by centrifugal [efferent] or secretomotor fibers as is the case for glands; these are precisely the facts which lead to suppose that the Glomus caroticum is a sensory organ.” A few pages down, de Castro wrote: “The Glomus represents an organ with multiple receptors furnished with specialized receptor cells like those of other sensory organs [taste buds?]…As a plausible hypothesis we propose that the Glomus caroticum represents a sensory organ, at present the only one in its kind, dedicated to capture certain qualitative variations in the composition of blood, a function that, possibly by a reflex mechanism would have an effect on the functional activity of other organs… Therefore, the sensory fiber would not be directly stimulated by blood, but via the intermediation of the epithelial cells of the organ, which, as their structure suggests, possess a secretory function which would participate in the stimulation of the centripetal fibers.” In our article we will recreate the experiments that allowed Fernando de Castro to reach this first conclusion. Also, we will scrutinize the natural endowments and the scientific knowledge that drove de Castro to make the triple hypotheses: the CB as chemoreceptor (variations in blood composition), as a secondary sensory receptor which functioning involves a chemical synapse, and as a center, origin of systemic reflexes. After a brief account of the systemic reflex effects resulting from the CB stimulation, we will complete our article with a general view of the cellular-molecular mechanisms currently thought to be involved in the functioning of this arterial chemoreceptor.
PMCID: PMC4026738  PMID: 24860435
Fernando de Castro; carotid body; arterial chemoreceptorss; sensory physiology; ion channels; transduction cascade
3.  Carotid body function in aged rats: responses to hypoxia, ischemia, dopamine, and adenosine 
Age  2010;33(3):337-350.
The carotid body (CB) is the main arterial chemoreceptor with a low threshold to hypoxia. CB activity is augmented by A2-adenosine receptors stimulation and attenuated by D2-dopamine receptors. The effect of aging on ventilatory responses mediated by the CB to hypoxia, ischemia, and to adenosine and dopamine administration is almost unknown. This study aims to investigate the ventilatory response to ischemia and to adenosine, dopamine, and their antagonists in old rats, as well as the effect of hypoxia on adenosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) accumulation in the aged CB. In vivo experiments were performed on young and aged rats anesthetized with pentobarbitone and breathing spontaneously. CB ischemia was induced by bilateral common carotid occlusions. cAMP content was measured in CB incubated with different oxygen concentrations. Hyperoxia caused a decrease in cAMP in the CB at all ages, but no differences were found between normoxia and hypoxia or between young and old animals. The endogenous dopaminergic inhibitory tonus is slightly reduced. However, both the ventilation decrease caused by exogenous dopamine and the increase mediated by A2A-adenosine receptors are not impaired in aged animals. The bradycardia induced by adenosine is attenuated in old rats. The CB’s peripheral control of ventilation is preserved during aging. Concerns have also arisen regarding the clinical usage of adenosine to revert supraventricular tachycardia and the use of dopamine in critical care situations involving elderly people.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11357-010-9187-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3168591  PMID: 20922488
Aging; Peripheral chemoreceptors; Ventilation; Domperidone; cAMP; Adenosine A2A receptors
4.  Tetrodotoxin as a Tool to Elucidate Sensory Transduction Mechanisms: The Case for the Arterial Chemoreceptors of the Carotid Body 
Marine Drugs  2011;9(12):2683-2704.
Carotid bodies (CBs) are secondary sensory receptors in which the sensing elements, chemoreceptor cells, are activated by decreases in arterial PO2 (hypoxic hypoxia). Upon activation, chemoreceptor cells (also known as Type I and glomus cells) increase their rate of release of neurotransmitters that drive the sensory activity in the carotid sinus nerve (CSN) which ends in the brain stem where reflex responses are coordinated. When challenged with hypoxic hypoxia, the physiopathologically most relevant stimulus to the CBs, they are activated and initiate ventilatory and cardiocirculatory reflexes. Reflex increase in minute volume ventilation promotes CO2 removal from alveoli and a decrease in alveolar PCO2 ensues. Reduced alveolar PCO2 makes possible alveolar and arterial PO2 to increase minimizing the intensity of hypoxia. The ventilatory effect, in conjunction the cardiocirculatory components of the CB chemoreflex, tend to maintain an adequate supply of oxygen to the tissues. The CB has been the focus of attention since the discovery of its nature as a sensory organ by de Castro (1928) and the discovery of its function as the origin of ventilatory reflexes by Heymans group (1930). A great deal of effort has been focused on the study of the mechanisms involved in O2 detection. This review is devoted to this topic, mechanisms of oxygen sensing. Starting from a summary of the main theories evolving through the years, we will emphasize the nature and significance of the findings obtained with veratridine and tetrodotoxin (TTX) in the genesis of current models of O2-sensing.
PMCID: PMC3280568  PMID: 22363245
carotid body; O2-sensing; tetrodotoxin; TTX; veratridine; dihydropyridine; catecholamine

Results 1-4 (4)