Primary afferent neurons containing calcitonin gene-related peptide but not substance P in forepaw skin, dorsal root ganglia, and spinal cord of mice.J Comp Neurol. 2015 Dec 01; 523(17):2555-69.JC
In mice dorsal root ganglia (DRG), some neurons express calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) without substance P (SP; CGRP(+) SP(-)). The projections and functions of these neurons are unknown. Therefore, we combined in vitro axonal tracing with multiple-labeling immunohistochemistry to neurochemically define these neurons and characterize their peripheral and central projections. Cervical spinal cord, DRG, and forepaw skin were removed from C57Bl/6 mice and multiple-labeled for CGRP, SP, and either marker for the sensory neuron subpopulations transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1), neurofilament 200 (NF200), or vesicular glutamate transporter 2 (VGluT1). To determine central projections of CGRP(+) SP(-) neurons, Neurobiotin (NB) was applied to the C7 ventral ramus and visualized in DRG and spinal cord sections colabeled for CGRP and SP. Half (50%) of the CGRP-immunoreactive DRG neurons lacked detectable SP and had a mean soma size of 473 ± 14 μm(2) (n = 5); 89% of the CGRP(+) SP(-) neurons expressed NF200 (n = 5), but only 32% expressed TRPV1 (n = 5). Cutaneous CGRP(+) SP(-) fibers were numerous within dermal papillae and around hair shafts (n = 4). CGRP(+) SP(-) boutons were prevalent in lateral lamina I and in lamina IV/V of the dorsal horn (n = 5). NB predominantly labeled fibers penetrating lamina IV/V, 6 ± 3% contained CGRP (n = 5), and 21 ± 2% contained VGluT1 (n = 3). CGRP(+) SP(-) afferent neurons are likely to be non-nociceptive. Their soma size, neurochemical profile, and peripheral and central targets suggest that CGRP(+) SP(-) neurons are polymodal mechanoceptors.