Prox2 and Runx3 vagal sensory neurons regulate esophageal motility


  • E.D. Lowenstein
  • P.L. Ruffault
  • A. Misios
  • K.L. Osman
  • H. Li
  • R.S. Greenberg
  • R. Thompson
  • K. Song
  • S. Dietrich
  • X. Li
  • N. Vladimirov
  • A. Woehler
  • J.F. Brunet
  • N. Zampieri
  • R. Kühn
  • S.D. Liberles
  • S. Jia
  • G.R. Lewin
  • N. Rajewsky
  • T.E. Lever
  • C. Birchmeier


  • Neuron


  • Neuron 111 (14): 2184-2200.e7


  • Vagal sensory neurons monitor mechanical and chemical stimuli in the gastrointestinal tract. Major efforts are underway to assign physiological functions to the many distinct subtypes of vagal sensory neurons. Here, we use genetically guided anatomical tracing, optogenetics, and electrophysiology to identify and characterize vagal sensory neuron subtypes expressing Prox2 and Runx3 in mice. We show that three of these neuronal subtypes innervate the esophagus and stomach in regionalized patterns, where they form intraganglionic laminar endings. Electrophysiological analysis revealed that they are low-threshold mechanoreceptors but possess different adaptation properties. Lastly, genetic ablation of Prox2 and Runx3 neurons demonstrated their essential roles for esophageal peristalsis in freely behaving mice. Our work defines the identity and function of the vagal neurons that provide mechanosensory feedback from the esophagus to the brain and could lead to better understanding and treatment of esophageal motility disorders.