A population of large neurons in laminae III and IV of the rat spinal cord that have long dorsal dendrites and lack the neurokinin 1 receptor

Eur J Neurosci. 2007 Sep;26(6):1587-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05793.x.


The dorsal horn of the rat spinal cord contains a population of large neurons with cell bodies in laminae III or IV, that express the neurokinin 1 receptor (NK1r) and have long dorsal dendrites that branch extensively within the superficial laminae. In this study, we have identified a separate population of neurons that have similar dendritic morphology, but lack the NK1r. These cells also differ from the NK1r-expressing neurons in that they have significantly fewer contacts from substance P-containing axons and are not retrogradely labelled following injection of tracer into the caudal ventrolateral medulla. We also provide evidence that these cells do not belong to the postsynaptic dorsal column pathway or the spinothalamic tract. It is therefore likely that these cells do not have supraspinal projections. They may provide a route through which information transmitted by C fibres that lack neuropeptides is conveyed to deeper laminae. The present findings demonstrate the need for caution when attempting to classify neurons solely on the basis of somatodendritic morphology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / cytology
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neurofilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1 / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Stilbamidines
  • Substance P / metabolism
  • Thalamus / cytology
  • Thalamus / physiology


  • 2-hydroxy-4,4'-diamidinostilbene, methanesulfonate salt
  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1
  • Stilbamidines
  • neurofilament protein H
  • Substance P