Novel expression pattern of neuropeptide Y immunoreactivity in the peripheral nervous system in a rat model of neuropathic pain

Mol Pain. 2015 May 27:11:31. doi: 10.1186/s12990-015-0029-y.


Background: Neuropeptide Y (NPY) has been implicated in the modulation of pain. Under normal conditions, NPY is found in interneurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and in sympathetic postganglionic neurons but is absent from the cell bodies of sensory neurons. Following peripheral nerve injury NPY is dramatically upregulated in the sensory ganglia. How NPY expression is altered in the peripheral nervous system, distal to a site of nerve lesion, remains unknown. To address this question, NPY expression was investigated using immunohistochemistry at the level of the trigeminal ganglion, the mental nerve and in the skin of the lower lip in relation to markers of sensory and sympathetic fibers in a rat model of trigeminal neuropathic pain.

Results: At 2 and 6 weeks after chronic constriction injury (CCI) of the mental nerve, de novo expression of NPY was seen in the trigeminal ganglia, in axons in the mental nerve, and in fibers in the upper dermis of the skin. In lesioned animals, NPY immunoreactivity was expressed primarily by large diameter mental nerve sensory neurons retrogradely labelled with Fluorogold. Many axons transported this de novo NPY to the periphery as NPY-immunoreactive (IR) fibers were seen in the mental nerve both proximal and distal to the CCI. Some of these NPY-IR axons co-expressed Neurofilament 200 (NF200), a marker for myelinated sensory fibers, and occasionally colocalization was seen in their terminals in the skin. Peptidergic and non-peptidergic C fibers expressing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) or binding isolectin B4 (IB4), respectively, never expressed NPY. CCI caused a significant de novo sprouting of sympathetic fibers into the upper dermis of the skin, and most, but not all of these fibers, expressed NPY.

Conclusions: This is the first study to provide a comprehensive description of changes in NPY expression in the periphery after nerve injury. Novel expression of NPY in the skin comes mostly from sprouted sympathetic fibers. This information is fundamental in order to understand where endogenous NPY is expressed, and how it might be acting to modulate pain in the periphery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Male
  • Neuralgia / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neuropeptide Y / metabolism*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / injuries
  • Peripheral Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Skin / innervation


  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide