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Somatosens Mot Res. 1992;9(1):45-59.

Calcitonin gene-related peptide-containing neurons supplying the rat digestive system: differential distribution and expression pattern.

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Center for Ulcer Research and Education/Digestive Disease Center, Department of Veterans Affairs VA Medical Center West Los Angeles, California 90073.


In the enteric nervous system, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) immunoreactivity is localized to a substantial number of capsaicin-sensitive afferent fibers and to intrinsic neurons and processes. CGRP immunoreactivity detected by immunohistochemistry represents the expression of two distinct genes, the calcitonin/alpha-CGRP and the beta-CGRP genes, which have different tissue distributions. In the present study, we used (1) in situ hybridization histochemistry and ribonucleic acid (RNA) blot hybridization with RNA probes complementary to the divergent sequences of alpha- and beta-CGRP messenger RNAs (mRNAs) to differentiate which CGRP gene was expressed in enteric and afferent neurons; and (2) axonal transport approaches in combination with CGRP immunohistochemistry to define the location of CGRP-containing afferent neurons supplying the digestive system. In situ hybridization histochemistry with [35S]-labeled RNA probes indicated that in the gastrointestinal tract beta-CGRP mRNA, but not alpha-CGRP mRNA, was expressed in enteric neurons confined to the myenteric and submucous plexuses of the small and large intestine. In dorsal root and vagal sensory ganglia, mRNAs for alpha-CGRP and beta-CGRP were both present in a vast population of neurons, with an overlapping pattern, even though the alpha-CGRP signal appeared more intense. RNA blot hybridization analysis showed a single band of hybridization at 1.2 Kb with the beta-CGRP RNA probe in RNA extracts from muscle layer-myenteric plexus and submucosal layer preparations of the ileum, and from dorsal root ganglia; it also showed a single band at 1.3 Kb with the alpha-CGRP RNA probe in extracts from dorsal root ganglia, but not from the intestine. These findings further support the differential expression of alpha- and beta-CGRP mRNAs. Retrograde transport of fast blue or fluorogold coupled with CGRP immunohistochemistry demonstrated that the vast majority of CGRP-containing afferent neurons supplying the stomach, proximal duodenum, and pancreas were located in dorsal root ganglia at the middle and lower thoracic and at the upper lumbar levels, and represented a major component of the afferent innervation of these viscera (up to 89%). Approximately 50% of CGRP-immunoreactive afferent neurons also expressed tachykinin (TK) immunoreactivity, as shown by triple labeling. Only a minor component of the afferent innervation of the stomach, duodenum, and pancreas derived from vagal CGRP-containing neurons (less than 8%). A large portion of these neurons (an average of 62%) also contained TK immunoreactivity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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