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Brainstem and cervical spinal cord Fos immunoreactivity evoked by nerve growth factor injection into neck muscles in mice


Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Jens Ellrich, Professor of Experimental Neurosurgery, Department of Neurosurgery, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstrasse 30, D-52074 Aachen, Germany. Tel. + 49 24 1808 9521, fax + 49 24 1808 2491, e-mail


Although myofascial tenderness is thought to play a key role in the pathophysiology of tension-type headache, very few studies have addressed neck muscle nociception. The neuronal activation pattern following local nerve growth factor (NGF) administration into semispinal neck muscles in anaesthetized mice was investigated using Fos protein immunohistochemistry. In order to differentiate between the effects of NGF administration on c-fos expression and the effects of surgical preparation, needle insertion and intramuscular injection, the experiments were conducted in three groups. In the sham group (n = 7) cannula needles were only inserted without any injection. In the saline (n = 7) and NGF groups (n = 7) 0.9% physiological saline solution or 0.8 µm NGF solution were injected in both muscles, respectively. In comparison with sham and saline conditions, NGF administration induced significantly stronger Fos immunoreactivity in the mesencephalic periaqueductal grey (PAG), the medullary lateral reticular nucleus (LRN), and superficial layers I and II of cervical spinal dorsal horns C1, C2 and C3. This activation pattern corresponds very well to central nervous system processing of deep noxious input. A knowledge of the central anatomical representation of neck muscle pain is an essential prerequisite for the investigation of neck muscle nociception in order to develop a future model of tension-type headache.