Skin Reinnervation by Collateral Sprouting Following Spared Nerve Injury in Mice

J Neurosci. 2024 Apr 10;44(15):e1494232024. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1494-23.2024.


Following peripheral nerve injury, denervated tissues can be reinnervated via regeneration of injured neurons or collateral sprouting of neighboring uninjured afferents into denervated territory. While there has been substantial focus on mechanisms underlying regeneration, collateral sprouting has received less attention. Here, we used immunohistochemistry and genetic neuronal labeling to define the subtype specificity of sprouting-mediated reinnervation of plantar hindpaw skin in the mouse spared nerve injury (SNI) model, in which productive regeneration cannot occur. Following initial loss of cutaneous afferents in the tibial nerve territory, we observed progressive centripetal reinnervation by multiple subtypes of neighboring uninjured fibers into denervated glabrous and hairy plantar skin of male mice. In addition to dermal reinnervation, CGRP-expressing peptidergic fibers slowly but continuously repopulated denervated epidermis, Interestingly, GFRα2-expressing nonpeptidergic fibers exhibited a transient burst of epidermal reinnervation, followed by a trend towards regression. Presumptive sympathetic nerve fibers also sprouted into denervated territory, as did a population of myelinated TrkC lineage fibers, though the latter did so inefficiently. Conversely, rapidly adapting Aβ fiber and C fiber low threshold mechanoreceptor (LTMR) subtypes failed to exhibit convincing sprouting up to 8 weeks after nerve injury in males or females. Optogenetics and behavioral assays in male mice further demonstrated the functionality of collaterally sprouted fibers in hairy plantar skin with restoration of punctate mechanosensation without hypersensitivity. Our findings advance understanding of differential collateral sprouting among sensory neuron subpopulations and may guide strategies to promote the progression of sensory recovery or limit maladaptive sensory phenomena after peripheral nerve injury.

Keywords: collateral sprouting; innervation; mechanoreceptor; nociceptive; peptidergic; peripheral nerve injury.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries*
  • Skin / innervation