pH Detectors in Lamprey Spinal Cords Control Cell and Locomotor Activity

Neurons in the lamprey spinal cord can sense pH and counteract changes from the body’s optimal range.

Alison F. Takemura
Sep 1, 2016

NEUTRALIZERS: Cells in the lamprey spinal cord have PKD2L1 receptors (pink) that detect alkaline pH and produce somatostatin (green) to lower it. NOBEL INSTITUTE FOR NEUROPHYSIOLOGY, ELHAM JALALVAND

EDITOR'S CHOICE IN NEUROSCIENCE

The paper
E. Jalalvand et al., “The spinal cord has an intrinsic system for the control of pH,” Curr Biol, 26:1346-51, 2016.

pH swings
Bodies like to keep their pH close to 7.4, whether that means hyperventilating to make the blood alkaline, or burning energy, shifting to anaerobic metabolism, and producing lactate to make the blood acidic. The lungs and kidneys can regulate pH changes systemically, but they may not act quickly on a local scale. Because even small pH changes can dramatically affect the nervous system, a study led by Sten Grillner of Karolinska Institute in Sweden looked for a mechanism for pH homeostasis in the spinal cord.

Channeling change
Using the lamprey as a model...