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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e50805. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050805. Epub 2012 Nov 27.

Role of peptidergic nerve terminals in the skin: reversal of thermal sensation by calcitonin gene-related peptide in TRPV1-depleted neuropathy.

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Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine, College of Medicine, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.


To investigate the contribution of peptidergic intraepidermal nerve fibers (IENFs) to nociceptive responses after depletion of the thermal-sensitive receptor, transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 (TRPV1), we took advantage of a resiniferatoxin (RTX)-induced neuropathy which specifically affected small-diameter dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons and their corresponding nerve terminals in the skin. Thermal hypoalgesia (p<0.001) developed from RTX-treatment day 7 (RTXd7) and became normalized from RTXd56 to RTXd84. Substance P (SP)(+) and TRPV1(+) neurons were completely depleted (p = 0.0001 and p<0.0001, respectively), but RTX had a relatively minor effect on calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)(+) neurons (p = 0.029). Accordingly, SP(+) (p<0.0001) and TRPV1(+) (p = 0.0008) IENFs were permanently depleted, but CGRP(+) IENFs (p = 0.012) were only transiently reduced and had recovered by RTXd84 (p = 0.83). The different effects of RTX on peptidergic neurons were attributed to the higher co-localization ratio of TRPV1/SP than of TRPV1/CGRP (p = 0.029). Thermal hypoalgesia (p = 0.0018) reappeared with an intraplantar injection of botulinum toxin type A (botox), and the temporal course of withdrawal latencies in the hot-plate test paralleled the innervation of CGRP(+) IENFs (p = 0.0003) and CGRP contents in skin (p = 0.01). In summary, this study demonstrated the preferential effects of RTX on depletion of SP(+) IENFs which caused thermal hypoalgesia. In contrast, the skin was reinnervated by CGRP(+) IENFs, which resulted in a normalization of nociceptive functions.

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