Sneezing is a vital respiratory reflex frequently associated with allergic rhinitis and viral respiratory infections. However, its neural circuit remains largely unknown. A sneeze-evoking region was discovered in both cat and human brainstems, corresponding anatomically to the central recipient zone of nasal sensory neurons. Therefore, we hypothesized that a neuronal population postsynaptic to nasal sensory neurons mediates sneezing in this region. By screening major presynaptic neurotransmitters/neuropeptides released by nasal sensory neurons, we found that neuromedin B (NMB) peptide is essential for signaling sneezing. Ablation of NMB-sensitive postsynaptic neurons in the sneeze-evoking region or deficiency in NMB receptor abolished the sneezing reflex. Remarkably, NMB-sensitive neurons further project to the caudal ventral respiratory group (cVRG). Chemical activation of NMB-sensitive neurons elicits action potentials in cVRG neurons and leads to sneezing behavior. Our study delineates a peptidergic pathway mediating sneezing, providing molecular insights into the sneezing reflex arc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3762-3773.e10
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 8 2021


  • caudal ventral respiratory group
  • nasal sensory neurons
  • neuropeptide
  • sneeze
  • sneeze-evoking region


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