Innervation of nociceptors in the menisci of the knee joint: an immunohistochemical study

Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2000;120(3-4):201-4. doi: 10.1007/s004020050044.


Using histology, we studied the innervation of nociceptors in the medial and lateral menisci of the knee joint. Specimens examined were taken from 16 patients during arthroplasty. The patients were 6 men and 10 women, with ages ranging from 14 to 76 years (mean 56 years). Immunohistochemistry with the unlabeled antibody biotin-streptavidin method was employed to detect protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5) or substance P (SP) in the specimen. The antibody for PGP 9.5 detected nerve tissues in the menisci. Most but not all of the nerve fibers were associated with blood vessels. Nerve fibers and sensory receptors were found mainly in the peripheral, vascular zone, representing the outer one-third of the meniscus, and the innervated area was wider in the anterior and posterior horns. Pacinian and Ruffini corpuscles as well as free nerve endings were identified in these areas. Larger fibers coursed circumferentially in the peripheral zone, with smaller branches of nerve fibers running radially into the meniscus. Nerve fibers positive for SP were also detected in the menisci, but were fewer in number. Their branches also were fewer, oriented radially and paralleling blood vessels. This study showed that some of the pain in cases of meniscal tear could originate in the meniscus itself, especially with peripheral tears that may be accompanied by bleeding.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee
  • Female
  • Histological Techniques
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Menisci, Tibial / innervation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Fibers / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis
  • Nociceptors / anatomy & histology
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Pacinian Corpuscles / physiology
  • Substance P / analysis
  • Thiolester Hydrolases / analysis
  • Tibial Meniscus Injuries
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Substance P
  • Thiolester Hydrolases
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase