Peripheral patterns of calcitonin‐gene‐related peptide general somatic sensory innervation: Cutaneous and deep terminations

Lawrence Kruger, James D. Silverman, Patrick W. Mantyh, Catia Sternini, Nicholas C. Brecha

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220 Scopus citations


The distribution of calcitonin‐gene‐related peptide (CGRP) immunoreactivity (IR) was studied in peripheral tissues of rats. The ganglionic origin, somatosensory nature, and anatomic relations of this thin‐axon population were evaluated with particular emphasis on possible nociceptive roles. In animals untreated with colchicine, CGRP‐IR is found in a vast proportion of small‐ and medium‐diameter sensory ganglion cells that give rise to numerous thinly myelinated and unmyelinated axons that display CGRP‐IR throughout the body. The integumentary innervation consists, in part, of an extensive subpapillary network largely traced to dermal blood vessels, sweat glands, and “free” nerve endings, some of which are found within regions containing only mast cells, fibroblasts, and collagen. Dermal papillae contain CGRP‐IR axons surrounding each vascular loop; other papillary axons end freely or occasionally surround Meissner corpuscles. Intraepithelial axons enter glabrous epidermal pegs, branching and exhibiting terminals throughout the stratum spinosum. A similar pattern is found in hairy skin with additional innervation entering the base and surrounding the lower third of each hair follicle, but apparently not supplying sebaceous glands and arrector pili muscle. Axons innervating nonkeratinized oral epithelium are similar or greater in number and distribution compared to epidermis, often with more extensive branching. The high density of intraepithelial CGRP‐IR innervation does not appear to correlate with the sensitive mechanoreceptor‐based increase in spatial sensory discriminative capacities in the distal portions of the limb. In deep somatic tissues, CGRP‐IR is principally related to vasculature and motor end plates of striated muscle, but there is an extensive network of thin axons within bone, principally in the periosteum, and focally in joint capsules, but not in relation to muscle spindles or tendon organs. These findings, together with the distribution in cranial tissues described in an accompanying paper (Silverman and Kruger: J. Comp. Neurol. 280:303–330, '89), are considered in the context of a “noceffector” concept incorporating the efferent role of these sensory axons in various tissues. It is suggested that involvement in tissue maintenance and renewal during normal function, as well as following injury, may predominate over the relatively infrequent nociceptive role of this peptidergic sensory system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-302
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 8 1989


  • free nerve endings
  • immunohistochemistry
  • joint
  • neuropeptide
  • periosteum
  • skin
  • sweat glands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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