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Comparison of the 3-D patterns of the parasympathetic nervous system in the lung at late developmental stages between mouse and chicken

By Tadayoshi Watanabe, Ryo Nakamura, Yuta Takase, Etsuo A Susaki, Hiroki R Ueda, Ryosuke Tadokoro, Yoshiko Takahashi

Posted 10 May 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/318113 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2018.05.014)

Although the basic schema of the body plan is similar among different species of amniotes (mammals, birds, and reptiles), the lung is an exception. Here, anatomy and physiology are considerably different, particularly between mammals and birds. In mammals, inhaled and exhaled airs mix in the airways, whereas in birds the inspired air flows unidirectionally without mixing with the expired air. This bird-specific respiration system is enabled by the complex tubular structures called parabronchi where gas exchange takes place, and also by the bellow-like air sacs appended to the main part of the lung. That the lung is predominantly governed by the parasympathetic nervous system has been shown mostly by physiological studies in mammals. However, how the parasympathetic nervous system in the lung is established during late development has largely been unexplored both in mammals and birds. In this study, by combining immunocytochemistry, the tissue-clearing CUBIC method, and ink-injection to airways, we have visualized the 3-D distribution patterns of parasympathetic nerves and ganglia in the lung at late developmental stages of mice and chickens. These patterns were further compared between these species, and three prominent similarities emerged: (1) parasympathetic postganglionic fibers and ganglia are widely distributed in the lung covering the proximal and distal portions, (2) the gas exchange units, alveoli in mice and parabronchi in chickens, are devoid of parasympathetic nerves, (3) parasympathetic nerves are in close association with smooth muscle cells, particularly at the base of the gas exchange units. These observations suggest that despite gross differences in anatomy, the basic mechanisms underlying parasympathetic control of smooth muscles and gas exchange might be conserved between mammals and birds.

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