The jugular ganglion (JG) contains sensory neurons of the vagus nerve which innervate somatic and visceral structures in cranial and cervical regions. In this study, the number of sensory neurons in the human JG was investigated. And, the morphology of sensory neurons in the human JG and nodose ganglion (NG) was compared. The estimated number of JG neurons was 2721.8–9301.1 (average number of sensory neurons ± S.D. = 7975.1 ± 3312.8). There was no significant difference in sizes of the neuronal cell body and nucleus within the JG (cell body, 1128.8 ± 99.7 μ m2; nucleus, 127.7 ± 20.8 μ m2) and NG (cell body, 963.8 ± 225.7 μ m2; nucleus, 123.2 ± 32.3 μ m2). These findings indicate that most of sensory neurons show the similar morphology in the JG and NG. Our immunohistochemical method also demonstrated the distribution of ion channels, neurotransmitter agents and calcium-binding proteins in the human JG. Numerous JG neurons were immunoreactive for transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TRPV1, mean ± SD = 19.9 ± 11.5 %) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP, 28.4 ± 6.7 %). A moderate number of JG neurons contained TRPV2 (12.0 ± 4.7 %), substance P (SP, 15.7 ± 6.9 %) and secreted protein, acidic and rich in cysteine-like 1 (SPARCL1, 14.6 ± 7.4 %). A few JG neurons had vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGLUT2, 5.6 ± 2.9 %) and parvalbumin (PV, 2.3 ± 1.4 %). SP- and TRPV2-containing JG neurons had mainly small and medium-sized cell bodies, respectively. TRPV1- and VGLUT2- containing JG neurons were small to medium-sized. CGRP- and SPARCL1-containing JG neurons were of various cell body sizes. Sensory neurons in the human JG were mostly free of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and neuropeptide Y (NPY). In the external auditory canal skin, subepithelial nerve fibers contained TRPV1, TRPV2, SP, CGRP and VGLUT2. Perivascular nerve fibers also had TRPV1, TRPV2, SP, CGRP, VIP, NPY and TH. However, PV- and SPARCL1-containing nerve endings could not be seen in the external auditory canal. It is likely that sensory neurons in the human JG can transduce nociceptive and mechanoreceptive information from the external auditory canal. Theses neurons may be also associated with neurogenic inflammation in the external auditory canal and ear-cough reflex through the vagus nerve.
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