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Keywords:

  • CGRP;
  • neuropathic pain;
  • parasympathetic;
  • sympathetic;
  • trigeminal system;
  • trkA

Abstract

In this study we used immunocytochemistry to investigate whether autonomic fibres sprouted in the skin of the lower lip in a rat model of neuropathic pain. We used a bilateral chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the mental nerve (MN), a branch of the trigeminal nerve. In this model, we also studied the accompanying changes in peptidergic [calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)-immunoreactive] sensory fibres, as well as in trkA receptor immunoreactivity in the sensory nerves. Autonomic (sympathetic and parasympathetic) fibre sprouting was first observed 1 week post-injury with a peak in the number of sprouted fibres occurring at 4 and 6 weeks post-CCI. CGRP-IR fibres almost disappeared at 2 weeks post-CCI, but quickly sprouted, leading to a significant peak above sham levels 4 weeks post-injury. trkA receptor expression was found to be up-regulated in small cutaneous nerves 4 weeks post-CCI, returning to sham levels by 8 weeks post-CCI. There was no sympathetic fibre sprouting in the trigeminal ganglion following CCI. At 4 weeks post-CCI, rats displayed spontaneous, directed grooming to the area innervated by the MN that was not seen in sham animals, which we interpreted as a sign of spontaneous pain or dysesthesiae. Collectively, our findings indicate that as a result of autonomic sprouting due to CCI of the MN, remaining intact nociceptive fibres may potentially develop sensitivity to sympathetic and parasympathetic stimulation, which may have a role in the generation of abnormal pain following nerve injury.