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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1989 Jul;86(13):5193-7.

Substance P receptor binding sites are expressed by glia in vivo after neuronal injury.

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Center for Ulcer Research and Education, Veteran's Administration Medical Center-Wadsworth, Los Angeles, CA 90073.


In vitro studies have demonstrated that glia can express functional receptors for a variety of neurotransmitters. To determine whether similar neurotransmitter receptors are also expressed by glia in vivo, we examined the glial scar in the transected optic nerve of the albino rabbit by quantitative receptor autoradiography. Receptor binding sites for radiolabeled calcitonin gene-related peptide, cholecystokinin, galanin, glutamate, somatostatin, substance P, and vasoactive intestinal peptide were examined. Specific receptor binding sites for each of these neurotransmitters were identified in the rabbit forebrain but were not detected in the normal optic nerve or tract. In the transected optic nerve and tract, only receptor binding sites for substance P were expressed at detectable levels. The density of substance P receptor binding sites observed in this glial scar is among the highest observed in the rabbit forebrain. Ligand displacement and saturation experiments indicate that the substance P receptor binding site expressed by the glial scar has pharmacological characteristics similar to those of substance P receptors in the rabbit striatum, rat brain, and rat and canine gut. The present study demonstrates that glial cells in vivo express high concentrations of substance P receptor binding sites after transection of retinal ganglion cell axons. Because substance P has been shown to regulate inflammatory and immune responses in peripheral tissues, substance P may also, by analogy, be involved in regulating the glial response to injury in the central nervous system.

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