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Keywords:

  • collateral sprouting;
  • dorsal root ganglion;
  • NGF;
  • pain;
  • regeneration;
  • sympathetic;
  • sensory

Abstract

Sympathetic axons invade dorsal root ganglia (DRG) following nerve injury, and activity in the resulting pericellular axonal ‘baskets' may underlie painful sympathetic–sensory coupling. Sympathetic sprouting into the DRG may be stimulated by nerve growth factor (NGF). To test this hypothesis, we investigated the effect of daily anti-NGF administration on pain and on sprouting in the DRG induced by chronic sciatic constriction injury (CCI) or L5 spinal nerve ligation (SNL). These models have been shown to differ subtly in the onset of pain behaviours and adrenergic sprouting, and we now demonstrate a fundamental difference in the way sympathetic axons invade the DRG: after CCI, perivascular noradrenergic collaterals sprouted into the DRG in a manner dependent upon peripherally derived NGF. In contrast, after SNL, regenerating sympathetic axons were diverted towards the DRG from the spinal nerve by the obstructing ligature, and this effect was only moderately impeded by anti-NGF. The differential dependence on anti-NGF suggests that adrenergic innervation of the DRG after SNL and CCI may reflect regenerative and collateral sprouting, respectively. Pain behaviour was similarly affected: anti-NGF completely prevented CCI-induced thermal hyperalgesia and mechanoallodynia, but the same treatment only partly relieved these symptoms following SNL. These differences emphasize that although CCI and SNL may result in similar behavioural abnormalities, the underlying mechanisms may be governed by distinct processes, differentially dependent on peripheral NGF. These mechanistic differences will have to be considered in the development of appropriate treatment strategies for neuropathic pain produced by different types of pathology.