Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 203–215 | Cite as

Early morphological changes of primary afferent neurons and their processes in newborn mice after treatment with capsaicin

  • A. Hiura
  • H. Ishizuka
Original Paper


Degenerating figures of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons and their central and peripheral processes (dorsal root and saphenous nerve) and terminals (central terminals in the superficial dorsal horn and cutaneous nerve of the hind paw dorsal skin) of neonatal mice were examined 30 min, 1, 2 and 5 h, and 2, 3, 5, and 10 days after subcutaneous injection of capsaicin on post-natal day 2. Many small DRG neurons showed degeneration 1 h after treatment. Scarcely any features of degeneration were seen in the DRG and dorsal root 10 days after treatment. The degenerating aspects of terminal axons in the marginal layer of the superficial dorsal horn were characterized by enlarged round axons with closely packed osmiophilic materials, lamellar bodies, and loss of axoplasmic organelles. Two types of central terminals (C-terminals) showed degeneration in the substantia gelatinosa from 30 min after treatment onward. One type consisted of small, round, sinuous or slender dark terminals (CI-terminals), and the other of large, pale, round or angular terminals (CII-terminals). Those that degenerated markedly had homogeneously electron-dense axoplasm with dilated synaptic vesicles and inclusion bodies. Extensive degeneration of terminal axons in the marginal layer occurred 5 h after treatment, whereas conspicuous degeneration of C-terminals occurred from 30 min to 10 days after treatment in the substantia gelatinosa. CI-terminals showed marked degeneration during the first 3 days, whereas marked degeneration of CII-terminals occurred between 5 and 10 days after treatment. This time difference between the peaks of degeneration of CI- and CII-terminals indicates an important difference in the origins of these two types of capsaicin-sensitive, nociceptive fibers in the superficial dorsal horn; CI-terminals are derived from small DRG cells, whereas CII-terminals are derived from larger DRG cells. Unmyelinated axons in the dorsal root, saphenous nerve, and dorsal skin of the hind paw showed similar degeneration patterns 2 h after treatment to those of terminal axons in the marginal layer. Thus, the degenerating profiles in the marginal layer suggest that these axons arose from collaterals of unmyelinated primary axons descending or ascending within the marginal layer. Numerous enlarged degenerating axons showing vacuolation were conspicuous in the dorsal skin 3 days after treatment. The synchronous degeneration of the smaller DRG neurons, their central and peripheral processes, and their CI-terminals in the substantia gelatinosa supports the idea that the smaller DRG neurons are directly influenced by capsaicin, and that their degeneration is followed by centrifugal degeneration.

Key words

Degeneration Capsaicin Primary afferent neurons Dorsal root ganglion Mice 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Hiura
    • 1
  • H. Ishizuka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Oral AnatomySchool of Dentistry, Tokushima UniversityTokushimaJapan

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