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J Neurosci. 2011 Jul 13;31(28):10119-27. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1299-11.2011.

Restriction of transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 to the peptidergic subset of primary afferent neurons follows its developmental downregulation in nonpeptidergic neurons.

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Departments of Anatomy, University of California, San Francisco, California 94158, USA.


Primary afferent "pain" fibers (nociceptors) are divided into subclasses based on distinct molecular and anatomical features, and these classes mediate noxious modality-specific contributions to behaviors evoked by painful stimuli. Whether the heat and capsaicin receptor transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV1) is expressed heterogeneously across several sensory populations, or is selectively expressed by a unique nociceptor subclass, however, is unclear. Here we used two lines of Trpv1 reporter mice to investigate the primary afferent expression of TRPV1, both during development and in the adult. We demonstrate, using Cre-induced lineage tracing, that during development TRPV1 is transiently expressed in a wide range of dorsal root ganglion neurons, and that its expression is gradually refined, such that TRPV1 transcripts become restricted to a specific subset of peptidergic sensory neurons. Finally, the remarkable sensitivity that is characteristic of these reporter mice revealed an innervation of central and peripheral targets by TRPV1+ primary afferents in the adult that is considerably more extensive than has previously been appreciated.

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