Sneezing reflex is mediated by a peptidergic pathway from nose to brainstem

Fengxian Li, Haowu Jiang, Xiaolei Shen, Weishan Yang, Changxiong Guo, Zhiyao Wang, Maolei Xiao, Lian Cui, Wenqin Luo, Brian S. Kim, Zhoufeng Chen, Andrew J.W. Huang, Qin Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


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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