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Somatosens Mot Res. 2001;18(4):312-21.

Neurotrophin receptor expression in retrogradely labeled trigeminal nociceptors--comparisons with spinal nociceptors.

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Center for the Study of Nervous System Injury, Washington University, School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


In situ hybridization for trkA mRNA in trigeminal ganglion neurons retrogradely labeled with FluoroGold from the mandibular incisor demonstrated limited expression of the high-affinity nerve growth factor (NGF) receptor in this presumptive nociceptor population. Immunocytochemistry using polyclonal anti-trkA antibodies confirmed this result and extended it to show low levels of trkA protein expression in afferents labeled from the cornea. Less than 10% of the cells innervating the incisor, and approximately 15% of those innervating the cornea, were trkA-positive in adult and neonatal mice. This proportion is considerably lower than that observed in Dorsal Root Ganglion nociceptors, in which approximately 80% in neonates and approximately 40% in adults express trkA (Molliver and Snider, J. Comp Neurol 381: 428-438, 1997). Presumptive trigeminal nociceptors were further identified on the basis of expression of Calcitonin gene related peptide. In the entire ganglion, approximately 43% of the trkA-positive cells were CGRP-positive, and approximately 44% of the CGRP-positive cells were trkA-positive. Most trkA-positive cells that were CGRP-negative were medium-to-large diameter, while most of those that were CGRP-positive but trkA-negative were small diameter. Only approximately 5% of trkA-positive cells labeled from the incisor, and approximately 10% from the cornea, were CGRP-positive. Approximately 15% of the corneal or pulpal afferent neurons expressed ret-immunoreactivity. These results suggest that trigeminal nociceptors differ from spinal nociceptors in several significant ways. Differences in neurotrophic requirements may be related to differences in target tissues, in embryonic origin of some trigeminal ganglion cells, or in the timing of down-regulation of trkA expression in trigeminal ganglion cells.

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