Electrophysiological differences between nociceptive and non-nociceptive dorsal root ganglion neurones in the rat in vivo

J Physiol. 2005 Jun 15;565(Pt 3):927-43. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2005.086199. Epub 2005 Apr 14.


Intracellular recordings were made from 1022 somatic lumbar dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurones in anaesthetized adult rats, classified from dorsal root conduction velocities (CVs) as C, Adelta or Aalpha/beta, and according to their responses to mechanical and thermal stimuli as nociceptive (including high-threshold mechanoreceptive (HTM) units), and non-nociceptive (including low-threshold mechanoreceptive (LTM) and cooling units). Of these, 463 met electrophysiological criteria for analysis of action potentials (APs) evoked by dorsal root stimulation. These included 47 C-, 71 Adelta- and 102 Aalpha/beta-nociceptive, 10 C-, 8 Adelta- and 178 Aalpha/beta-LTM, 18 C- and 19 Adelta- unresponsive, and 4 C-cooling units. Medians of AP and afterhyperpolarization (AHP) durations and AP overshoots were significantly greater for nociceptive than LTM units in all CV groups. AP overshoots and AHP durations were similar in nociceptors of all CV groups whereas AP durations were greater in slowly conducting, especially C-fibre, nociceptors. C-cooling units had faster CVs, smaller AP overshoots and shorter AP durations than C-HTM units. A subgroup of Aalpha/beta-HTM, moderate pressure units, had faster CVs and AP kinetics than other Aalpha/beta-HTM units. Of the Aalpha/beta-LTM units, muscle spindle afferents had the fastest CV and AP kinetics, while rapidly adapting cutaneous units had the slowest AP kinetics. AP variables in unresponsive and nociceptive units were similar in both C- and Adelta-fibre CV groups. The ability of fibres to follow rapid stimulus trains (fibre maximum following frequency) was correlated with CV but not sensory modality. These findings indicate both the usefulness and limitations of using electrophysiological criteria for identifying neurones acutely in vitro as nociceptive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / physiology
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Nociceptors / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar