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  • 1 Department of Physiology, University of Szeged Dóm tér 10, H-6720 Szeged, Hungary
  • | 2 Department of Physiology, University of Szeged Dóm tér 10, H-6720 Szeged, Hungary
  • | 3 Department of Physiology, University of Szeged Dóm tér 10, H-6720 Szeged, Hungary
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In the present experiments the effect of systemic capsaicin treatment on the retrograde labelling of sensory ganglion cells was studied following the injection of choleratoxin B subunit-horseradish peroxidase conjugate (CTX-HRP) into intact and chronically transected peripheral nerves. In the control rats CTX-HRP injected into intact sciatic nerves labelled medium and large neurons with a mean cross-sectional area of 1041 ± 39 mm2. However, after injection of the conjugate into chronically transected sciatic nerves of the control rats, many small cells were also labelled, shifting the mean cross-sectional area of the labelled cells to 632 ± 118 mm2. Capsaicin pretreatment per se induced a moderate but significant decrease in the mean cross-sectional area of the labelled neurons (879 ± 79 mm2). More importantly, systemic pretreatment with capsaicin prevented the peripheral nerve lesion-induced labelling of small cells. Thus, the mean cross-sectional areas of labelled neurons relating to the intact and transected sciatic nerves, respectively, did not differ significantly. These findings provide direct evidence for a phenotypic switch of capsaicin-sensitive nociceptive neurons after peripheral nerve injury, and suggest that lesion-induced morphological changes in the spinal cord may be related to specific alterations in the chemistry of C-fibre afferent neurons rather than to a sprouting response of A-fibre afferents.

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