1. A novel preparation of the oesophagus with attached vagus nerve from the ferret maintained in vitro was used to study the properties of single vagal afferent nerve fibres with identified receptive fields. 2. Recordings were made from three types of gastro-oesophageal vagal afferent fibres that were classified on the basis of their sensitivity to mechanical stimulation. There were those responding to mucosal stroking (mucosal receptors), to circular tension (tension receptors) and those responding to mucosal stroking and circular tension, which we have termed tension/mucosal (TM) receptors. 3. The conduction velocities for mucosal, TM and tension receptor fibres were 6.38 ± 1.22 m s-1 (n = 22), 6.20 ± 1.49 m s-1 (n = 13) and 5.33 ± 0.86 m s-1 (n = 22), respectivelly. 4. Receptive fields of afferents showed random topographical distribution by fibre type and conduction velocity. They were found mainly distal but also occasionally proximal to the point of vagal dissection. 5. Twenty-eight per cent of mucosal, 63% of TM and 43% of tension receptors responded to one or more drugs or chemical stimuli applied to the receptive field. 6. In conclusion, this experimental preparation provides evidence for the existence of three types of oesophageal vagal afferent fibre, namely mucosal, tension and the newly identified tension/mucosal receptors.
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