Plasticity in rat uterine sympathetic nerves: the role of TrkA and p75 nerve growth factor receptors

J Anat. 2005 Aug;207(2):125-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2005.00435.x.


Uterine sympathetic innervation undergoes profound remodelling in response to physiological and experimental changes in the circulating levels of sex hormones. It is not known, however, whether this plasticity results from changes in the innervating neurons, the neuritogenic properties of the target tissue or both. Using densitometric immunohistochemistry, we analysed the effects of prepubertal chronic oestrogen treatment (three subcutaneous injections of 20 microg of beta-oestradiol 17-cypionate on days 25, 27 and 29 after birth), natural peripubertal transition and late pregnancy (19-20 days post coitum) on the levels of TrkA and p75 nerve growth factor receptors in uterine-projecting sympathetic neurons of the thoraco-lumbar paravertebral sympathetic chain (T7-L2) identified using the retrograde tracer Fluorogold. For comparative purposes, levels of TrkA and p75 were assessed in the superior cervical ganglion (SCG) following prepubertal chronic oestrogen treatment. These studies showed that the vast majority of uterine-projecting neurons expressed both TrkA and p75. Both prepubertal chronic oestrogen treatment and the peripubertal transition increased the ratio p75 to TrkA in uterine-projecting neurons, whereas pregnancy elicited the opposite effect. Prepubertal chronic oestrogen treatment had no effects on levels of TrkA or p75 in sympathetic neurons of the SCG. Taken together, our data suggest that neurotrophin receptor-mediated events may contribute to regulate sex hormone-induced plasticity in uterine sympathetic nerves, and are in line with the idea that, in vivo, plasticity in uterine nerves involves changes in both the target and the innervating neurons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / chemistry*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptor, trkA / analysis
  • Receptor, trkA / physiology*
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / analysis
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Sexual Maturation
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Uterus / innervation*


  • Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Receptors, Nerve Growth Factor
  • Estradiol
  • Receptor, trkA