Localization and activation of glutamate receptors in unmyelinated axons of rat glabrous skin

Neurosci Lett. 1995 Sep 1;197(1):25-8. doi: 10.1016/0304-3940(95)11889-5.


Immunohistochemical staining for the glutamate receptor subtypes N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), kainate, and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) results in a significant number of labeled unmyelinated axons in the glabrous skin of the rat hindpaw. Injection of glutamate into the rat hindpaw results in behavioral changes interpreted as mechanical allodynia and mechanical hyperalgesia. The anatomical findings provide a reasonable explanation for the action of the exogenous peripheral glutamate, namely that activation of these receptors leads to increased primary afferent activity in unmyelinated axons and thus to pain behaviors. AMPA receptors are frequently associated with small clear vesicles in the axoplasm of the unmyelinated axons, many of which have been previously shown to contain high concentrations of glutamate. This finding indicates that these might be autoreceptors and so glutamate itself might regulate certain types of peripheral impulse traffic. The presence of peripheral glutamate receptors associated with unmyelinated axons suggests the possibility that glutamate antagonists applied peripherally might prevent or attenuate some pain-related behaviors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, AMPA / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glutamate / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid / metabolism
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism
  • Skin / innervation*
  • Skin / metabolism*


  • Receptors, AMPA
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Receptors, Kainic Acid
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate