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J Neurophysiol. 2003 Sep;90(3):1949-55. Epub 2003 Apr 30.

Inflammation induces ectopic mechanical sensitivity in axons of nociceptors innervating deep tissues.

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Department of Anesthesia, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


A variety of seemingly diverse pain syndromes are characterized by movement-induced pain radiating in the distribution of a peripheral nerve or nerve root. This could be explained by the induction of ectopic mechanical sensitivity in intact sensory axons. Here we show that inflammation led to mechanical sensitivity of the axons of a subset of mechanically sensitive primary sensory neurons. Dorsal root recordings were made from 194 mechanically sensitive neurons that innervated deep and cutaneous structures and had C, Adelta, and Aalphabeta conduction velocities. No axons of any category were mechanically sensitive in control experiments. However, the axons of neurons innervating deep structures and having C- or Adelta-conduction velocities became mechanically sensitive during the neuritis, and also exhibited an increased incidence of spontaneous discharge. The incidence of mechanical sensitivity followed a distinct time course. In some cases, paw withdrawal thresholds were obtained after neuritis induction. The time course of the resultant hypersensitivity was not directly related to the time course of the axonal mechanical sensitivity. Ectopic axonal mechanical sensitivity could explain some types of radiating, nerve-related pain coexisting with diseases of seemingly diverse etiologies.

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