The postnatal physiological and neurochemical development of peripheral sensory C fibres

Neuroscience. 1984 Nov;13(3):933-44. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(84)90107-6.


The postnatal development of sensory C fibre function was investigated in neonatal rats aged 1-21 days. From birth, flexor-withdrawal reflexes (measured from the hamstring electromyograph) to pinching and heating the skin of the hindfoot were easily recorded under light anaesthesia and in fact were exaggerated in amplitude and duration compared to adult responses. Flexor reflexes to irritant chemicals, however, were not present until day 10-11 of life. In parallel with this late development of specific chemical sensitivity, neurogenic oedema, a C fibre-mediated inflammatory reaction, also did not occur until day 11. Substance P and fluoride-resistant acid phosphatase histochemistry were used to investigate the neurochemical development of sensory C fibres. Substance P was present in the skin, nerve, dorsal root ganglion and spinal cord from birth and fluoride-resistant acid phosphate within 12 h of birth. The adult neurochemical appearance of C-fibre terminals in the dorsal horn was established in a few days. The results show that despite the apparent early anatomical and neurochemical maturity of C fibres, physiological function is not fully established until the second week of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Peripheral Nerves / growth & development
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Substance P / metabolism


  • Substance P
  • Acid Phosphatase