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J Comp Neurol. 1997 Apr 7;380(2):164-74.

Immunohistochemical study of skin reinnervation by regenerative axons.

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Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, Spain.


The time sequence of sensory and sudomotor nerve regeneration to the mouse footpad was studied between one and seven weeks after crush or section of the sciatic nerve. Protein gene product 9.5, vasoactive intestinal peptide, substance P, and calcitonin gene-related peptide were localized in thick sections by using indirect immunofluorescence techniques and imaged by confocal microscopy. Nerve regeneration was visually assessed in all nerves and quantified in sweat glands. After denervation, protein gene product 9.5 immunoreactivity remained as dim fluorescence within thick fibers of dermal nerve trunks, whereas thin nerve fibers to sweat glands and to epidermis disappeared. By 14 days postcrush and 35 days postsection, the first protein gene product 9.5 immunoreactive regenerating axons appeared in large nerve trunks, quickly extending to epidermis and sweat glands. Reinnervation of Meissner's corpuscles occurred nearly simultaneous with return of epidermal free nerve endings and sudomotor network. Calcitonin gene-related peptide, vasoactive intestinal peptide, and substance P immunoreactivity disappeared completely one week after denervation, then reappeared at 17-18 days postcrush and 35 days postsection. Fewer nerve fibers were immunoreactive to these peptides than to protein gene product 9.5. The overall density of reinnervation, although reduced, more closely resembled normal in the sweat glands and Meissner's corpuscles than in the epidermis. Reinnervation was more successful after crush than after nerve section. The time course for functional return of sweating paralleled the return of protein gene product 9.5 immunoreactivity, whereas appearance of vasoactive intestinal peptide was delayed by several days.

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