Afferent nerve fibers of the somatosensory system are a molecularly diverse cell population that detects a varied range of environmental stimuli, converting these external cues ultimately into a sensory percept. Afferents mediating detection of thermal stimuli express a repertoire of temperature sensitive ion channels of the TRP family which endow these nerves with the ability to respond to the breadth of temperatures in the environment. The cold and menthol receptor TRPM8 is responsible for detection of cold and, unlike other thermosensors, detects both innocuous and noxious temperatures. How this single molecule can perform such diverse functions is currently unknown, but expression analyses in adult tissues shows that TRPM8 neurons are a molecularly diverse population and it is likely that this diversity underlies differential functionality. To determine how this phenotype is established, we examined the developmental time course of TRPM8 expression using a mouse transgenic line in which GFP expression is driven by the TRPM8 transcriptional promoter (Trpm8(GFP)). We find that Trpm8(GFP) expression begins prior to embryonic day 15.5 (E15.5) after which expression reaches levels observed in adult neurons. By E18.5, central axons of Trpm8(GFP) neurons reach the spinal cord dorsal horn, but anatomical localization and in vivo measurements of neural activity suggest that fully functional cold circuits are not established until after the first postnatal week. Additionally, Trpm8(GFP) neurons undergo a transition in neurochemical phenotype, ultimately reaching adult expression of markers such TRPV1, CGRP, peripherin, and NF200 by postnatal day 14. Thus, based on immunochemical, anatomical and functional criteria, active cold neural circuits are fully established by the second week postnatal, thereby suggesting that important extrinsic or intrinsic mechanisms are active prior to this developmental stage.
Copyright (c) 2010 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.