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Highly localized interactions between sensory neurons and sprouting sympathetic fibers observed in a transgenic tyrosine hydroxylase reporter mouse

Author(s): Xie Wenrui | Strong Judith | Mao Juxian | Zhang Jun-Ming

Journal: Molecular Pain
ISSN 1744-8069

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 53;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: sympathetic sprouting | ectopic activity | spontaneous activity | spinal nerve ligation

Abstract Background Sprouting of sympathetic fibers into sensory ganglia occurs in many preclinical pain models, providing a possible anatomical substrate for sympathetically enhanced pain. However, the functional consequences of this sprouting have been controversial. We used a transgenic mouse in which sympathetic fibers expressed green fluorescent protein, observable in live tissue. Medium and large diameter lumbar sensory neurons with and without nearby sympathetic fibers were recorded in whole ganglion preparations using microelectrodes. Results After spinal nerve ligation, sympathetic sprouting was extensive by 3 days. Abnormal spontaneous activity increased to 15% and rheobase was reduced. Spontaneously active cells had Aαβ conduction velocities but were clustered near the medium/large cell boundary. Neurons with sympathetic basket formations had a dramatically higher incidence of spontaneous activity (71%) and had lower rheobase than cells with no sympathetic fibers nearby. Cells with lower density nearby fibers had intermediate phenotypes. Immunohistochemistry of sectioned ganglia showed that cells surrounded by sympathetic fibers were enriched in nociceptive markers TrkA, substance P, or CGRP. Spontaneous activity began before sympathetic sprouting was observed, but blocking sympathetic sprouting on day 3 by cutting the dorsal ramus in addition to the ventral ramus of the spinal nerve greatly reduced abnormal spontaneous activity. Conclusions The data suggest that early sympathetic sprouting into the sensory ganglia may have highly localized, excitatory effects. Quantitatively, neurons with sympathetic basket formations may account for more than half of the observed spontaneous activity, despite being relatively rare. Spontaneous activity in sensory neurons and sympathetic sprouting may be mutually re-enforcing.

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