Nonselective innervation of lamina I projection neurons by cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript peptide (CART)-immunoreactive fibres in the rat spinal dorsal horn.Eur J Neurosci. 2009 Jun; 29(12):2375-87.EJ
Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptides have been implicated in spinal pain transmission. A dense plexus of CART-immunoreactive fibres has been described in the superficial laminae of the spinal cord, which are key areas in sensory information and pain processing. We demonstrated previously that the majority of these fibres originate from nociceptive primary afferents. Using tract tracing, multiple immunofluorescent labelling and electronmicroscopy we determined the proportion of peptidergic primary afferents expressing CART, looked for evidence for coexistence of CART with galanin in these afferents in lamina I and examined their targets. Almost all (97.9%) randomly selected calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)-immunoreactive terminals were substance P (SP)-positive (+) and CART was detected in approximately half (48.6%) of them. Most (81.4%) of the CGRP/SPergic boutons were galanin+ and approximately half (49.0%) of these contained CART. Many (72.9%) of the CARTergic boutons which expressed CGRP were also immunoreactive for galanin, while only 8.6% of the CARTergic terminals were galanin+ without CGRP. Electron microscopy showed that most of the CART terminals formed asymmetrical synapses, mainly with dendrites. All different morphological and neurochemical subtypes of spinoparabrachial projection neurons in the lamina I received contacts from CART-immunoreactive nociceptive afferents. The innervation density from these boutons did not differ significantly between either the different neurochemical or the morphological subclasses of these cells. This suggests a nonselective innervation of lamina I projection neurons from a subpopulation of CGRP/SP afferents containing CART peptide. These results provide anatomical evidence for involvement of CART peptide in spinal pain transmission.