Tyrosine hydroxylase is expressed in a subpopulation of small dorsal root ganglion neurons in the adult mouse

Exp Neurol. 2006 Jul;200(1):153-65. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2006.01.023. Epub 2006 Mar 6.


The expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) was studied in adult mouse dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) and spinal cord by means of immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. TH immunoreactivity and TH mRNA were present in 10-15% of lumbar DRG neurons, in most cases being small/medium-sized. Only very few of these neurons coexpressed calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), and only around 6% bound isolectin B4 (IB4). Dopamine beta-hydroxylase-positive(+) or aromatic amino acid decarboxylase (AADC)+ DRG neurons were rare and did not colocalize TH. No evidence for dopamine transporter expression was obtained. Axotomy of the sciatic nerve only showed a tendency towards reduction in the number of TH+ neurons. In the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, moderately dense and widespread TH+ nerve terminals were observed, mainly in the gray matter and they did not show a typical primary afferent pattern. Also, dorsal rhizotomy or peripheral axotomy had no apparent effect on TH-LI in the dorsal horn. In the skin, along with an abundant TH+ innervation of blood vessels and sweat gland acini, a number of fibers was observed in close relation to the skin surface, some even penetrating into the epithelium. These results demonstrate presence, in normal adult mouse DRGs, of a subpopulation of TH+, essentially CGRP- and IB4-negative small/medium-sized neurons. No evidence for transport of TH into central afferents was obtained, but the enzyme may be present in some sensory fibers in the skin. The fact that neither AADC nor the dopamine transporter could be visualized suggests of non-dopaminergic transmitter phenotype, but the levels of these two dopaminergic markers may be too low to be detected with the present methodology. A further alternative is that L-DOPA after release is extracellularly converted to dopamine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / enzymology*
  • Ganglia, Spinal / growth & development
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / physiology*
  • Lectins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / enzymology*
  • Ribosome Inactivating Proteins, Type 1
  • Saporins
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / biosynthesis*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics


  • IB4-saporin conjugate
  • Lectins
  • Ribosome Inactivating Proteins, Type 1
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Saporins
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide