Sub-Populations of Smaller Diameter Trigeminal Primary Afferent Neurons Defined By Expression of Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide and the Cell Surface Oligosaccharide Recognized By Monoclonal Antibody LA4

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Immunocytochemistry has been used to examine the trigeminal ganglion cell populations in the rat which express calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and the oligosaccharide antigen recognized by the monoclonal antibody LA4. Calcitonin gene-related peptide and LA4 identify two large but mainly separate populations of trigeminal ganglion cells. Depending on the method of assessment used, CGRP-immunoreactive cells represent 29–37% of trigeminal ganglion cells while LA4 labels 26–40% of the cells, but with only 8% overlap between the two populations. Both CGRP and LA4 label predominantly small diameter cells (mean diameters 23 μm and 25 μm respectively) but with CGRP cells exhibiting a greater range of diameters than LA4 cells. The cell sizes indicate that small diameter CGRP-immunoreactive cells and most LA4-immunoreactive cells are likely to have unmyelinated axons, and together the two populations can account for the great majority of unmyelinated trigeminal primary afferent neurons. Centrally, CGRP and LA4 show distinct patterns of staining. Thus although both antigens are found in lamina II of subnucleus caudalis of the spinal trigeminal nucleus, CGRP is most abundant in lamina I and lamina II outer while LA4 immunoreactivity is most dense in lamina II inner. In addition CGRP-, but not LA4-, immunoreactive fibres occur in the magnocellular portion of caudalis. Previous studies have show that in rat dorsal root ganglion cells CGRP coexists with most other known neuropeptides and can therefore be used as a general marker for peptide-containing primary afferents. In contrast LA4 labels a cell population which is probably largely identical to that identified by the presence of fluoride resistant acid phosphatase or by the binding of lectins such as Griffonia simplicifolia isolectin B4 and this population does not contain neuropeptides. Our results thus provide further evidence that unmyelinated primary afferents can be divided into peptide and non-peptide containing subpopulations and that these populations innervate distinct regions of laminae I and II.



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