Collateral sprouting of uninjured primary afferent A-fibers into the superficial dorsal horn of the adult rat spinal cord after tropical capsaicin treatment to the sciatic nerve

Richard J. Mannion, Tim P. Doubell, Richard E. Coggeshall, Clifford J. Woolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

111 Scopus citations


That terminals of uninjured primary sensory neurons terminating in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord can collaterally sprout was first suggested by Liu and Chambers (1958), but this has since been disputed. Recently, horseradish peroxidase conjugated to the B subunit of cholera toxin (B-HRP) and intracellular HRP injections have shown that sciatic nerve section or crush produces a long-lasting rearrangement in the organization of primary afferent central terminals, with A-fibers sprouting into lamina II, a region that normally receives only C-fiber input (Woolf et al., 1992). The mechanism of this A-fiber sprouting has been thought to involve injury-induced C-fiber transganglionic degeneration combined with myelinated A-fibers being conditioned into a regenerative growth taste. In this study, we ask whether C-fiber degeneration and A-fiber containing are both necessary for the sprouting of A-fibers into lamina II. Local application of the C-fiber- specific neurotoxin capsaicin to the sciatic nerve has previously been shown to result in C-fiber damage and degenerative atrophy in lamina II. We have used B-HRP to transganglionically label A-fiber central terminals and have shown that 2 weeks after topical capsaicin treatment to the sciatic nerve, the pattern of B-HRP staining in the dorsal horn is indistinguishable from that seen after axotomy, with lamina II displaying novel staining in the identical region containing capsaicin-treated C-fiber central terminals. These results suggest that after C-fiber injury, uninjured A-fiber central terminals can collaterally sprout into lamina II of the dorsal horn. This phenomenon may help to explain the pain associated with C-fiber neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5189-5195
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 1996



  • C-fiber
  • injury
  • pain
  • plasticity
  • regeneration
  • sensory neuron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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