Organization of the serotonergic innervation of spinal neurons in rats-I. Neuropeptide coexistence in varicosities innervating some spinothalamic tract neurons but not in those innervating postsynaptic dorsal column neurons

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Abstract

Previous studies have suggested that peptides such as substance P and thyrotropin-releasing hormone coexist with serotonin in the same varicosities in the ventral horn and intermediate gray of the spinal cord in rat. However, coexistence of these peptides with serotonin is rare in fibers in the superficial dorsal horn. Since it has been proposed that serotonergic fibers in the superficial dorsal horn act to modulate nociception, it was hypothesized that the serotonergic neurons that contain neither substance P nor thyrotropin-releasing hormone might constitute a specifically antinociceptive subset of serotonergic neurons. This being the case, it would be expected that different types of serotonergic neurons innervate nociceptive and non-nociceptive spinal neurons. In order to test this hypothesis, a group of cells that include nociceptive neurons (spinothalamic tract neurons) and a group of predominantly non-nociceptive neurons (postsynaptic dorsal column neurons) in the spinal cord of rat were retrogradely labeled. Sections of the spinal cord containing retrogradely labeled spinothalamic tract or postsynaptic dorsal column neurons were stained for serotonin and either substance P or thyrotropin-releasing hormone using two-color immunohistochemistry. A retrogradely labeled cell was classified as "apposed" if there was no discernible distance between an immunohistochemically labeled varicosity and the cell. Eighty per cent of spinothalamic tract and 83% of postsynaptic dorsal column profiles were apposed by serotonin-immunoreactive varicosities in the spinal cord. Thirty-one per cent of the spinothalamic tract profiles that were apposed by serotonergic varicosities were apposed by serotonergic varicosities that were also stained for thyrotropin-releasing hormone. The distribution of the latter spinothalamic neurons was similar to that reported for spinothalamic tract neurons responsive to joint movement. In addition, at least 63% of the spinothalamic tract profiles which were apposed by serotonergic varicosities were apposed by "serotonin-only" varicosities, including most spinothalamic tract neurons in the marginal zone, suggesting that at least some "serotonin-only" neurons are antinociceptive. However, contrary to the hypothesis, at least 94% of the postsynaptic dorsal column profiles apposed by serotonergic varicosities were apposed by "serotonin-only" varicosities. These findings suggest that there may be a relationship between the sensory modality to which a spinal neuron responds and the type of serotonergic innervation it receives. However, it appears that "serotonin-only" neurons may not constitute a specifically antinociceptive category of serotonergic neurons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)885-898
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroscience
Volume50
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1992

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