The dorsal horn of the spinal cord is the first integration site of somatosensory inputs from the periphery. In the superficial layers of the dorsal horn, nociceptive inputs are processed by a complex network of excitatory and inhibitory interneurons whose function and connectivity remain poorly understood. We examined the role of calretinin-expressing interneurons (CR neurons) in such processing and show that they receive direct inputs from nociceptive fibers and polysynaptic inputs from touch-sensitive Aβ fibers. Their activation by chemogenetic or optogenetic stimulation produces mechanical allodynia and nocifensive responses. Furthermore, they monosynaptically engage spinoparabrachial (SPb) neurons in lamina I, suggesting CR neurons modulate one of the major ascending pain pathways of the dorsal horn. In conclusion, we propose a neuronal pathway in which CR neurons are positioned at the junction between nociceptive and innocuous circuits and directly control SPb neurons in lamina I.
Keywords: Lmx1b; ascending pain pathway; calretinin; chemogenetic; dorsal horn; optogenetic; pain; path-clamp; projection neuron; spinoparabrachial.
Copyright © 2019 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.