Delayed reinnervation by nonpeptidergic nociceptive afferents of the glabrous skin of the rat hindpaw in a neuropathic pain model

J Comp Neurol. 2011 Jan 1;519(1):49-63. doi: 10.1002/cne.22500.


Painful peripheral neuropathies have been associated with a reorganization of skin innervation. However, the detailed changes in skin innervation by the different afferent fiber types following a neuropathic nerve injury have never been characterized in an animal model of neuropathic pain. Our objective was to thoroughly characterize such changes in the thick skin of the foot in a well-established rat model of neuropathic pain, namely, the chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the sciatic nerve. We used the immunofluorescence detection of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), purinergic receptor P2X3, and NF200 as markers of peptidergic nociceptive fibers, nonpeptidergic nociceptive C fibers, and myelinated afferents, respectively. We observed that CCI-operated animals developed significant mechanical allodynia and hyperalgesia as well as thermal hyperalgesia. At 3 days following nerve injury, all CCI-operated animals had a significant decrease in the density of fibers immunoreactive (IR) for CGRP, P2X3, and NF200 within the upper dermis. A recovery of CGRP-IR fibers occurred within 4 weeks of nerve injury and sprouting above control levels was observed at 16 weeks. However, the myelinated (NF200-IR) fibers never recovered to control levels within a period of 16 weeks following nerve injury. Interestingly, the P2X3-IR fibers took considerably more time to recover than the CGRP-IR fibers following the initial loss. A loss in P2X3-IR fibers persisted to 16 weeks and recovered to levels above that of control at 1.5 years following nerve injury. Further studies are required to clarify the relevance of these innervation changes for neuropathic pain generation and maintenance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / biosynthesis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Hindlimb
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / metabolism
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / metabolism
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / pathology
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neuralgia / metabolism
  • Neuralgia / pathology*
  • Neurofilament Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Nociceptors / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X3 / biosynthesis
  • Sciatic Nerve / injuries
  • Skin / innervation*


  • Neurofilament Proteins
  • Receptors, Purinergic P2X3
  • neurofilament protein H
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide