• capsaicin;
  • calcitonin gene-related peptide;
  • PGP 9.5;
  • skin innervation;
  • stereology


Innervation is required to preserve several aspects of skin homeostasis. Previous studies in rodents have shown that sciatic nerve transection leads to epidermal thinning and reduced keratinocyte proliferation. As the sciatic nerve is composed of sensory and motor axons, it is not clear whether skin alterations reflect motor or sensory disturbances. In this study, we used neonatal capsaicin treatment to evaluate whether sensory chemical denervation affects keratinocyte proliferation at 1, 3, and 6 months of age. Using design-based stereological methods, we estimated the total length of intraepidermal nerve fibers (IENF) that were of peptidergic type and the number of bromodeoxyuridine-labeled (BrdU+) nuclei in the hind paw glabrous epidermis of control and capsaicin-treated rats. We found that the treatment decreased the total fiber length of IENF immunoreactive for both protein gene product 9.5 (PGP+) and of IENF immunoreactive for calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP+). The length of PGP+ fibers decreased by 83%, 81%, and 77% and that of CGRP+ fibers decreased by 48%, 58%, and 58% at 1, 3, and 6 months, respectively. Double-immunofluorescence staining for neural beta III tubulin and CGRP revealed that the majority of the remaining fibers in the epidermis after capsaicin treatment were of peptidergic type. The number of BrdU+ nuclei was similar in both groups. Our findings suggest that IENF present after capsaicin treatment are sufficient to maintain epidermal replacement. Anat Rec, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.