Functional Connections Formed by Saphenous Nerve Terminal Sprouts in the Dorsal Horn Following Neonatal Sciatic Nerve Section

Authors

  • Peter Shortland,

    1. Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
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  • Maria Fitzgerald

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
      Dr M. Fitzgerald, as above
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Dr M. Fitzgerald, as above

Abstract

The rostrocaudal distribution of saphenous nerve inputs into the lumbar dorsal horn from L2 to L6 has been investigated in urethane anaesthetized rats whose left sciatic nerve was cut and ligated at birth. In normal cord, electrical stimulation of the saphenous nerve evoked dorsal horn spikes in L2 to caudal L4. Few or no spikes were evoked in L5. After neonatal sciatic nerve section, saphenous nerve stimulation evoked spikes throughout segments L2 to L6. Dorsal horn cell receptive fields were also altered following neonatal sciatic nerve section. A somatotopic map of the lumbar enlargement in normal rats was constructed from the receptive fields (RFs) of adjacent dorsal horn cells. Cells with RFs in the saphenous skin region were concentrated in L3 and rostral L4 and very few were found in L5. After neonatal sciatic nerve section, however, a substantial number of cells with low threshold saphenous skin RFs were also found in caudal L4 and throughout L5. These results show that the central saphenous nerve terminal sprouts that grow into the sciatic terminal region following neonatal sciatic nerve section (Fitzgerald, 1985, J. Comp. Neurol., 240, 414–422; Fitzgerald et al., 1990, J. Comp. Neurol., 300, 370–385) form functional connections. This results in dorsal horn cells that are not normally influenced by saphenous nerve inputs developing substantial low threshold RFs in saphenous nerve skin regions.

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