European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology

, Volume 273, Issue 12, pp 4127–4133 | Cite as

Histological identification of nasopharyngeal mechanoreceptors

  • Florent Salburgo
  • Stéphane Garcia
  • Aude Lagier
  • Dominique Estève
  • Jean-Pierre Lavieille
  • Marion MontavaEmail author


The auditory tube plays a fundamental role in regulating middle ear pressure. A “system” sensitive to a pressure gradient between the middle ear and the ambient environment is necessary. The presence of mechanoreceptors in the middle ear and the tympanic membrane has been studied, but the presence of these receptors in the nasopharyngeal region remains unclear. The aim of this study is to confirm the presence of pressure sensitive corpuscles in the nasopharynx. An experimental study was conducted on five fresh and unembalded human cadavers. The pharyngeal ostium of the auditory tube and its periphery was removed in one piece by video-assisted endonasal endoscopy. Samples were fixed in formaldehyde solution, embedded in paraffin, and cut. Slides were analyzed by HES (Hematoxyline Eosine Safran) coloration, by S100 protein and neurofilament protein immunostaining. Encapsulated nerve endings were researched and identified by slides analysis. Eight samples were included in our study. On seven samples, Ruffini corpuscles were identified in the mucosa of the posterior area of the pharyngeal ostium, with a higher concentration in the pharyngeal recess and in the posterior nasopharyngeal wall. Our study identified nasopharyngeal mechanoreceptors that could detect the nasopharyngeal pressure and, by extension, the atmospheric pressure. These findings support the theory of the neuronal reflex arc of isobaric system of the middle ear, based on the existence of a “system” sensitive to a pressure gradient between the middle ear and the ambient environment. Understanding of this system has been helpful in the diagnosis and management of middle ear diseases.


Auditory tube Eustachian tube Sensory receptors Mechanoreceptors Nasopharynx Middle ear pressure 



No financial support received.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest concerning this article.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Florent Salburgo
    • 1
  • Stéphane Garcia
    • 2
    • 3
  • Aude Lagier
    • 1
    • 4
  • Dominique Estève
    • 1
  • Jean-Pierre Lavieille
    • 1
    • 5
  • Marion Montava
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.APHM, Hôpital de la Conception, Service d’oto-rhino-laryngologie et de chirurgie cervico-facialeMarseilleFrance
  2. 2.Aix Marseille Université, INSERM, U1070MarseilleFrance
  3. 3.APHM, Hôpital Nord, Laboratoire d’anatomie pathologiqueMarseilleFrance
  4. 4.Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, LPL, UMR 7309MarseilleFrance
  5. 5.Aix Marseille Université, IFSSTAR, LBA, UMR-T 24MarseilleFrance

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