Mechanical and heat sensitization of cutaneous nociceptors in rats with experimental peripheral neuropathy

Neuroscience. 2005;132(1):193-201. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2004.12.036.


This study examined whether or not the properties of cutaneous nociceptive fibers are altered in the neuropathic state by comparing lumbars 5 and 6 spinal nerve ligation (SNL) rats with sham-operated controls. The rats with the unilateral SNL developed mechanical allodynia in the ipsilateral hind limb, whereas the sham group did not. Two to 5 weeks after the neuropathic or sham surgery, rats were subjected to single fiber-recording experiments to examine the properties of afferent fibers in the sural and plantar nerves. A total of 224 afferents in the C- and Adelta-ranges were characterized in the neuropathic and sham groups. Spontaneous activity was observed in 16 of 155 fibers in the neuropathic group and one of 69 fibers in the sham group. The response threshold of both the C- and Adelta-fibers to mechanical stimuli was lower in the neuropathic group than the sham group. The afferent fibers responsive to heat stimuli were all C-fibers, and none were Adelta-fibers. The response threshold of the C-fibers to the heat stimuli was lower in the neuropathic group than the sham group. The magnitude of the responses of both C- and Adelta-fibers to the suprathreshold intensity of the mechanical stimulus was greater in the neuropathic group than the sham group. However, the magnitude of the responses of C-fibers to the suprathreshold intensity of the heat stimulus in the neuropathic group was not different from that in the sham group. These results suggest that after a partial peripheral nerve injury, the nociceptors on the skin supplied by an uninjured nerve become sensitized to both mechanical and heat stimuli. This nociceptor sensitization can contribute to neuropathic pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology*
  • Ligation
  • Male
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / physiology
  • Neuralgia / physiopathology*
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Skin / innervation
  • Skin / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Nerves / injuries
  • Spinal Nerves / physiopathology