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Brain Res. 2003 May 16;972(1-2):44-52.

Trigeminal somatosensory innervation of the head of a teleost fish with particular reference to nociception.

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Roslin Institute, Welfare Biology, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9PS, UK.


Trigeminal somatosensory receptors have not been characterised in teleost fish and studies in elasmobranchs have failed to identify nociceptors. The present study examined the trigeminal nerve of a teleost fish, the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) to determine what types of somatosensory receptors were present on the head of the trout specifically searching for nociceptors. Single unit recordings were made from receptive fields on the head of the fish innervated by the trigeminal nerve. Each receptive field was tested for sensitivity to mechanical, thermal and chemical stimulation. Five different receptor types were found: fast adapting receptors responding to mechanical stimulation; slowly adapting receptors responding to mechanical stimuli; polymodal nociceptors responding to mechanical, noxious thermal and chemical stimulation; mechanothermal nociceptors responding to mechanical stimulation and noxious heat; and mechanochemical receptors responsive to mechanical and chemical stimulation. Mechanical thresholds, receptive field diameter, conduction velocities and thermal thresholds of the receptors were determined and there was no significant difference between the receptor types in terms of these properties. Three shapes of action potential (AP) were recorded from these receptors: type 1 with no inflexion; type 2 with an inflexion on depolarisation; and type 3 with an inflexion on repolarisation. Conduction velocity, amplitude and duration of the APs, afterhypolarisation amplitude and duration, as well as the maximum rate of depolarisation were measured for each action potential type. No major differences were found when making comparisons within receptor type and between receptor types. The fish nociceptors had similar physiological properties to nociceptors found in higher vertebrates.

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