Distinct subclassification of DRG neurons innervating the distal colon and glans penis/distal urethra based on the electrophysiological current signature

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Sep 15;112(6):1392-408. doi: 10.1152/jn.00560.2013. Epub 2014 May 28.


Spinal sensory neurons innervating visceral and mucocutaneous tissues have unique microanatomic distribution, peripheral modality, and physiological, pharmacological, and biophysical characteristics compared with those neurons that innervate muscle and cutaneous tissues. In previous patch-clamp electrophysiological studies, we have demonstrated that small- and medium-diameter dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons can be subclassified on the basis of their patterns of voltage-activated currents (VAC). These VAC-based subclasses were highly consistent in their action potential characteristics, responses to algesic compounds, immunocytochemical expression patterns, and responses to thermal stimuli. For this study, we examined the VAC of neurons retrogradely traced from the distal colon and the glans penis/distal urethra in the adult male rat. The afferent population from the distal colon contained at least two previously characterized cell types observed in somatic tissues (types 5 and 8), as well as four novel cell types (types 15, 16, 17, and 18). In the glans penis/distal urethra, two previously described cell types (types 6 and 8) and three novel cell types (types 7, 14, and 15) were identified. Other characteristics, including action potential profiles, responses to algesic compounds (acetylcholine, capsaicin, ATP, and pH 5.0 solution), and neurochemistry (expression of substance P, CGRP, neurofilament, TRPV1, TRPV2, and isolectin B4 binding) were consistent for each VAC-defined subgroup. With identification of distinct DRG cell types that innervate the distal colon and glans penis/distal urethra, future in vitro studies related to the gastrointestinal and urogenital sensory function in normal as well as abnormal/pathological conditions may be benefitted.

Keywords: classification; dorsal root ganglion; nociception; sensory neuron; viscera.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / genetics
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Colon / innervation*
  • Colon / physiology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology*
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Intermediate Filaments / genetics
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism
  • Lectins / genetics
  • Lectins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Neurons, Afferent / classification*
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Penis / innervation*
  • Penis / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Substance P / genetics
  • Substance P / metabolism
  • TRPV Cation Channels / genetics
  • TRPV Cation Channels / metabolism
  • Urethra / innervation*
  • Urethra / physiology
  • Versicans


  • Glycoproteins
  • Lectins
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Trpv1 protein, rat
  • Trpv2 protein, rat
  • Vcan protein, rat
  • Versicans
  • Substance P
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide
  • Acetylcholine
  • Capsaicin