VR1 protein expression increases in undamaged DRG neurons after partial nerve injury

Eur J Neurosci. 2001 Jun;13(11):2105-14. doi: 10.1046/j.0953-816x.2001.01591.x.


Changes in phenotype or connectivity of primary afferent neurons following peripheral nerve injury may contribute to the hyperalgesia and allodynia associated with neuropathic pain conditions. Although earlier studies using partial nerve injury models have focused on the role of damaged fibres in the generation of ectopic discharges and pain, it is now thought that remaining undamaged fibres may be equally important. We have examined the expression of the sensory neuron-specific cation channel Vanilloid Receptor 1 (VR1), an important transducer of noxious stimuli, in three models of nerve injury in the rat, using anatomical separation or fluorescent retrograde tracers to identify damaged or undamaged sensory neurons. After total or partial sciatic nerve transection, or spinal nerve ligation, VR1-immunoreactivity (IR) was significantly reduced in the somata of all damaged dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuronal profiles, compared to controls. However, after partial transection or spinal nerve ligation, VR1 expression was greater in the undamaged DRG somata than in controls. Unexpectedly, after L5 spinal nerve ligation, VR1-IR of the A-fibre somata increased approximately 3-fold in the uninjured L4 DRG compared to controls; a much greater increase than seen in the somata with C-fibres. Furthermore, we found that VR1-IR persisted in the transected sciatic nerve proximal to the lesion, despite its down-regulation in the damaged neuronal somata. This persistence in the nerve proximal to the lesion after nerve section, together with increased VR1 in DRG neurons left undamaged after partial nerve injury, may be crucial to the development or maintenance of neuropathic pain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axotomy / adverse effects
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Dextrans / pharmacology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / injuries
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiopathology
  • Hyperalgesia / etiology*
  • Hyperalgesia / pathology
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Nerve Crush / adverse effects
  • Neuralgia / etiology*
  • Neuralgia / pathology
  • Neuralgia / physiopathology
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Neurons, Afferent / pathology
  • Nociceptors / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism*
  • Rhodamines / pharmacology
  • Sciatic Nerve / metabolism
  • Sciatic Nerve / physiopathology
  • Sciatic Nerve / surgery
  • Spinal Nerves / metabolism
  • Spinal Nerves / physiopathology
  • Spinal Nerves / surgery


  • Dextrans
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Fluoro-Ruby
  • Receptors, Drug
  • Rhodamines