The spinal projection of individual identified A-delta- and C-fibers

J Neurophysiol. 1988 Jan;59(1):41-55. doi: 10.1152/jn.1988.59.1.41.


1. Recordings were made from individual sensory neurons with an A-delta peripheral conduction velocity, either intrasomally in the L7 dorsal root ganglion, or extracellularly in Lissauer's Tract or in the dorsal root close to the root entry zone. The spinal projection of these afferents was assessed by their antidromic response to stimulation of the dorsal columns (DC) or Lissauer's Tract (LT) at the L5/L6 border. The adequate stimulus was also ascertained. 2. A-delta-fibers could be divided into two groups: high-threshold mechanoreceptors from either skin or muscle (HTMRs) and low-threshold mechanoreceptors (LTMs), primarily Down Hairs. A third group of cells recorded intrasomally had broad spikes with shoulders on the downstroke characteristic of A-delta-nociceptors and were so classified provisionally, although no adequate stimulus could be identified. HTMRs and broad spike cells projected either in DC or LT, but LTMs projected only in DC, never in LT. About one-quarter of both groups failed to project rostrally as far as L5/L6. 3. Cells with unmyelinated axons recorded intrasomally were found to supply either low-threshold or high-threshold mechanoreceptors. Unlike A-delta-cells, all these cells had broad spikes with shoulders on the downstroke. Proportionally fewer C-fibers than A-delta-fibers projected as far as one segment rostral from their root entry zone. Of those that did, axons supplying low-threshold mechanoreceptors projected only in DC, whereas those innervating high-threshold mechanoreceptors could project either through LT or DC. 4. A-delta-fibers supplying LTMs and HTMRs exhibited a similar reduced conduction velocity was reduced even further in the spinal cord but much more for HTMRs than for LTMs. For C-fibers the conduction velocity decrease was more substantial in the dorsal root for HTMRs than for LTMs. 5. These findings suggest that axons innervating different peripheral receptors exhibit characteristic cellular properties. They confirm that the primary afferent component of Lissauer's Tract is specialized as a "pain pathway" but also indicate that the dorsal columns may play some role in the transmission of nociceptive information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Sciatic Nerve / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Time Factors