Cardiac Afferent Denervation Abolishes Ganglionated Plexi and Sympathetic Responses to Apnea: Implications for Atrial Fibrillation

Liliana Tavares, Moisés Rodríguez-Mañero, Bahij Kreidieh, Sergio H. Ibarra-Cortez, Jiexiao Chen, Sufen Wang, Judit Markovits, Roberto Barrios, Miguel Valderrábano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: The autonomic nervous system response to apnea and its mechanistic connection to atrial fibrillation (AF) are unclear. We hypothesize that sensory neurons within the ganglionated plexi (GP) play a role. We aimed to delineate the autonomic response to apnea and to test the effects of ablation of cardiac sensory neurons with resiniferatoxin (RTX), a neurotoxic TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid 1) agonist. Methods: Sixteen dogs were anesthetized and ventilated. Apnea was induced by stopping ventilation until oxygen saturations decreased to 80%. Nerve recordings from bilateral vagal nerves, left stellate ganglion, and anterior right GP were obtained before and during apnea, before and after RTX injection in the anterior right GP (protocol 1, n=7). Atrial effective refractory period and AF inducibility on single extrastimulation were assessed before and during apnea, and before and after intrapericardial RTX administration (protocol 2, n=9). GPS underwent immunohistochemical staining for TRPV1. Results: Apnea increased anterior right GP activity, followed by clustered crescendo vagal bursts synchronized with heart rate and blood pressure oscillations. On further oxygen desaturation, a tonic increase in stellate ganglion activity and blood pressure ensued. Apnea-induced effective refractory period shortening from 110.20±31.3 ms to 90.6±29.1 ms (P<0.001), and AF induction in 9/9 dogs versus 0/9 at baseline. After RTX administration, increases in GP and stellate ganglion activity and blood pressure during apnea were abolished, effective refractory period increased to 126.7±26.9 ms (P=0.0001), and AF was not induced. Vagal bursts remained unchanged. GP cells showed cytoplasmic microvacuolization and apoptosis. Conclusions: Apnea increases GP activity, followed by vagal bursts and tonic stellate ganglion firing. RTX decreases sympathetic and GP nerve activity, abolishes apnea's electrophysiological response, and AF inducibility. Sensory neurons play a role in apnea-induced AF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere006942
JournalCirculation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019


  • TRPV
  • atrial fibrillation
  • autonomic nervous system
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • sensory neurons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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