Petrosal ganglion: A more complex role than originally imagined
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The petrosal ganglion is a peripheral sensory ganglion, composed of pseudomonopolar sensory neurons that innervate the posterior third of the tongue and the carotid sinus and body. According to their electrical properties petrosal ganglion neurons can be ascribed to one of two categories: i) neurons with action potentials presenting an inflection (hump) on its repolarizing phase and ii) neurons with fast and brisk action potentials. Although there is some correlation between the electrophysiological properties and the sensory modality of the neurons in some species, no general pattern can be easily recognized. On the other hand, petrosal neurons projecting to the carotid body are activated by several transmitters, with acetylcholine and ATP being the most conspicuous in most species. Petrosal neurons are completely surrounded by a multi-cellular sheet of glial (satellite) cells that prevents the formation of chemical or electrical synapses between neurons. Thus, petrosal ganglion neurons are regarded as mere wires that communicate the periphery (i.e., carotid body) and the central nervous system. However, it has been shown that in other sensory ganglia satellite glial cells and their neighboring neurons can interact, partly by the release of chemical neuro-glio transmitters. This intercellular communication can potentially modulate the excitatory status of sensory neurons and thus the afferent discharge. In this mini review, we will briefly summarize the general properties of petrosal ganglion neurons and the current knowledge about the glial-neuron communication in sensory neurons and how this phenomenon could be important in the chemical sensory processing generated in the carotid body. © 2014 Retamal, Reyes and Alcayaga.
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