Isolectin B4 binding neurons are not present in the rat knee joint

Neuroscience. 2004;128(3):555-60. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2004.06.047.


Small-diameter sensory neurons are key contributors in joint pain and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Small-diameter sensory neurons can be separated into at least two distinct populations, which include isolectin B4 (IB4)-binding and tyrosine receptor kinase (trk) A-expressing. While trkA-expressing neurons have been identified in the rat knee joint there are no data, we are aware of, to suggest that IB4-binding neurons are also present. We aimed to determine whether or not there exists a population of IB4-binding neurons in the rat knee joint. Retrograde nerve tracing with fluoro-gold (FG) was used to identify the complete population of knee joint afferents in the lumbar dorsal root ganglia (DRG) L3 and L4 of female Wistar rats. IB4 conjugated to fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) was used to identify the cell bodies of IB4-binding neurons in the DRG. Of 1096 FG-labeled cell bodies in the DRG of knee joint injected animals (n=4), none were double labeled with FITC. Injection of FG into skin over the medial aspect of the rat knee (n=3) showed 48% of these cutaneous afferents in L3 and L4 DRG were double-labeled with FG and FITC. A complete absence of IB4-binding neurons in the rat knee joint makes it unlikely that this predominantly cutaneous, IB4-binding population of afferent neurons could have any significant influence in chronic inflammatory joint disease. This suggests that trkA-expressing neurons are the sole population of small-diameter sensory neurons in the knee joint and implies a significant role for these afferents in the progression of RA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / physiology
  • Cell Size
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism*
  • Knee Joint / innervation*
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Lumbosacral Region
  • Neurons, Afferent / classification
  • Neurons, Afferent / cytology
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism*
  • Nociceptors / cytology
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Plant Lectins / metabolism*
  • Plant Lectins / pharmacokinetics
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / cytology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Skin / innervation
  • Stilbamidines


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Griffonia simplicifolia lectins
  • Plant Lectins
  • Stilbamidines