Nerve injury-induced tactile allodynia is present in the absence of FOS labeling in retrogradely labeled post-synaptic dorsal column neurons

En Tan Zhang, Michael H. Ossipov, Dong Qin Zhang, Josephine Lai, Frank Porreca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The dorsal column pathway consists of direct projections from primary afferents and of ascending fibers of the post-synaptic dorsal column (PSDC) cells. This pathway mediates touch but may also mediate allodynia after nerve injury. The role of PSDC neurons in nerve injury-induced mechanical allodynia is unknown. Repetitive gentle, tactile stimulus or noxious pinch was applied to the ipsilateral hindpaw of rats with spinal nerve ligation (SNL) or sham surgery that had previously received tetramethylrhodamine dextran in the ipsilateral n. gracilis. Both touch and noxious stimuli produced marked increases in FOS expression in other cells throughout all laminae of the ipsilateral dorsal horn after nerve injury. However, virtually none of the identified PSDC cells expressed FOS immunofluorescence in response to repetitive touch or pinch in either the nerve-injured or sham groups. In contrast, labeled PSDC cells expressed FOS in response to ureter ligation and labeled spinothalamic tract (STT) cells expressed FOS in response to noxious pinch. Identified PSDC neurons from either sham-operated or SNL rats did not express immunoreactivity to substance P, CGRP, NPY, PKCY, MOR, the NK1 and the NPY-Y1 receptor. Retrogradely labeled DRG cells of nerve injured rats were large diameter neurons, which expressed NPY, but no detectable CGRP or substance P. Spinal nerve injury sensitizes neurons in the spinal dorsal horn to repetitive light touch but PSDC neurons apparently do not participate in touch-evoked allodynia. Sensitization of these non-PSDC neurons may result in activation of projections integral to the spinal/supraspinal processing of enhanced pain states and of descending facilitation, thus priming the central nervous system to interpret tactile stimuli as being aversive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-154
Number of pages12
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 2007


  • FOS expression
  • Neuropathic pain
  • PSDC cells
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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