ABSTRACT: Nociceptive nerves innervate the skin and play an important role in the generation of neuropathic pain. However, it remains elusive whether and how nociceptive nerve terminals degenerate in neuropathic pain conditions. To address this issue, we investigated cutaneous innervation in a model of painful mononeuropathy, the chronic constriction injury (CCI). The hind paws of rats were immunocytochemically stained with a pan-axonal marker, protein gene product 9.5 (PGP 9.5). Within 2 days after CCI, rats exhibited thermal hyperalgesia, and there was a partial depletion of epidermal nerves. The extent of reduction in epidermal nerves after CCI was variable with an epidermal nerve density of 3.65 +/- 1.97 fibers/mm (compared to 15.39 +/- 1.58 fibers/mm on the control side, P < 0.02). There was a mild but concomitant increase in PGP 9.5 (+) Langerhans cells in the epidermis of the skin with CCI (10.19 +/- 1.99 vs 7.75 +/- 1.36 cells/mm, P < 0.05). In the skin denervated by tight ligation of the sciatic nerve, epidermal nerves were completely depleted (0 fibers/mm vs. 12.26 +/- 1.44 fibers/mm on the control side, P < 0.001). Animals with tight ligation of the sciatic nerve exhibited thermal anesthesia. These findings suggest that the epidermis is partially denervated in CCI, and that a partial injury of nerves is correlated with the development of neuropathic pain.
Experimental Neurology 08/2001; 170(2):290-6. · 4.70 Impact Factor