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Keywords:

  • headache;
  • meninges;
  • primary afferents;
  • nociceptors;
  • trigeminovascular

Abstract

Neurophysiological studies have characterized the sensory responses of primary afferent nociceptors that innervate the intracranial dura. The present study used anatomical methods to examine in greater detail the axonal trajectories within the dura, as well as the axonal size distribution of the dural innervation. Immunostaining for CGRP in dural wholemounts revealed a network of fibers extending across the entire dura, with an especially dense plexus running along the borders of the transverse and superior sagittal sinuses. The plexus along the caudal border of the transverse sinus partially overlapped the dural area that shows the greatest density of mast cells. Visualization of axon bundles by DiI application in formalin-fixed tissue revealed two separate systems of fibers in the dura that could be distinguished by the orientation of their trajectories: one that runs parallel to the middle meningeal artery (MMA), and another with a more or less orthogonal orientation that runs rostromedially from the transverse sinus across the MMA. Axons traversed large distances across the dura, but the majority of the branching and arborization was usually concentrated in the distal part of the trajectory. In separate animals, measurement of myelinated axon diameters with electron microscopy showed that approximately one-third of the myelinated axons in the nerves supplying the dura (nervus spinosus and tentorial nerves) could be classified as A-beta, since they were comparable in size to the majority of axons in the trochlear nerve and the upper end of the size range in the trigeminal nerve (i.e., >5 μm). J. Comp. Neurol. 473:364–376, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.