Morphology of central terminations of intra-axonally stained, large, myelinated primary afferent fibers from facial skin in the rat

J Comp Neurol. 1985 Jul 8;237(2):195-215. doi: 10.1002/cne.902370205.


Horseradish peroxidase was intra-axonally injected into functionally identified primary afferent fibers within the rat spinal trigeminal tract in order to study the morphology of their central terminations. They were physiologically determined to be large, myelinated, cutaneous primary afferents by means of electrical and mechanical stimulation of their receptive fields. Ninety-three axons that innervated vibrissa follicles, guard hair follicles, and slowly adapting receptors were stained for distances of 4-12 mm at the levels of the main sensory nucleus, spinal trigeminal nucleus, and rostral cervical spinal cord. The collaterals of single axons from these receptors formed terminal arbors in the outer part of the spinal trigeminal nucleus rostral to and near the level of the obex (rostral type collaterals). In the rostral part of the subnucleus caudalis (Vc) they were confined to lamina V (caudalis type collaterals) and in the caudal part of Vc and in cervical segments they were confined to lamina III/IV (spinal-dorsal-horn-type collaterals). There were no transitional forms between the rostral and caudalis types, but there was a transitional form between the caudalis and spinal dorsal horn types. This transitional form was distributed in laminae III/IV and V. The terminal arbors of the rostral type of collaterals formed an interrupted, rostrocaudally oriented column like those seen in the lumbar dorsal horn, but the column shifted down to lamina V near the obex, and more caudally, gradually shifted upward to lamina III. Major morphological differences were not observed among the three different functional types of collaterals with respect to the rostrocaudal distribution of collaterals, and the shape and location of collaterals. The differential laminar distribution of collateral arbors of single axons along the rostrocaudal axis distinguishes the spinal trigeminal nucleus from the spinal dorsal horn where functional types of mechanoreceptive afferents form continuous or interrupted sagittal columns of terminal arbors that do not shift dorsoventrally within segments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Animals
  • Axons / ultrastructure*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Face / innervation*
  • Mechanoreceptors / anatomy & histology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / ultrastructure*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Trigeminal Nucleus, Spinal / anatomy & histology*
  • Vibrissae / anatomy & histology