Primary afferent origin of substance P‐containing axons in the superficial dorsal horn of the rat spinal cord: Depletion, regeneration and replenishment of presumed nociceptive central terminals

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Substance P‐like immunoreactivity (SPLI) was localized in the superficial spinal dorsal horn of the rat by means of light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical techniques. Serial immunocytochemical sections were subjected to densitometric measurements with an electronic Image Analyser, and with aid of a computer program, a two‐dimensional reconstruction of the fine neuroanatomical structure of the SPLI‐active regions of the lumbosacral upper superficial spinal dorsal horn was obtained. SPLI activity in the superficial dorsal horn outlines four well‐marked and distinctly differing regions, called, in the mediolateral sequence, areas A, B, C, and D, plus Cajal's noyeau interstitiel (“lateral spinal nucleus” = “nucleus of the dorsolateral fascicle,” L). Lumbosacral dorsal rhizotomy results in an almost complete depletion of SPLI from ipsilateral areas A, B, C, and D; it induces decreased SPLI in the area of the lateral spinal nucleus (L), ipsi‐ or contralaterally in an alternating fashion. Transection of the segmentally related, ipsilateral peripheral nerve induces a marked depletion of SPLI from areas A, B, and C but only a slight decrease in area D and virtually none in the area of L. Whereas a simple crush of the peripheral nerve (axocompression) induces only a slight depletion of SPLI, if any, semiautomatic densitometric analysis of serial immunocytochemical sections proves that a controlled crush injury (axocontusion) results in depletion of SPLI from the upper dorsal horn, similar to transection of the peripheral nerve. Following regeneration of the ipsilateral, segmentally related peripheral nerve, the original immunocytochemical structure of the superficial dorsal horn is re‐established by SPLI‐positive axonal sprouts originating from previously damaged dorsal root axons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-612
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 22 1990



  • degeneration
  • regulation
  • transganglionic degenerative atrophy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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