Substance P (NK1) and somatostatin (sst2A) receptor immunoreactivity in NTS-projecting rat dorsal horn neurones activated by nociceptive afferent input

Filomena O. Gamboa-Esteves, Peter N. McWilliam, Trevor F C Batten

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31 Citations (Scopus)


Spinal neurones that receive inputs from primary afferent fibres and have axons projecting supraspinally to the medulla oblongata may represent a pathway through which nociceptive and non-nociceptive peripheral stimuli are able to modulate cardiorespiratory reflexes. Expression of the neurokinin-1 (NK1) receptor is believed to be an indicator of lamina I cells that receive nociceptive inputs from substance P releasing afferents, and similarly, sst2A receptor expression may be a marker for neurones receiving somatostatinergic inputs. In this study, immunoreactivity for these two receptors was investigated in rat spinal neurones retrogradely labelled by injections of cholera toxin B or Fluorogold into the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS). In addition, nociceptive activation of these labelled cells was studied by immunodetection of Fos protein in response to cutaneous and visceral noxious chemical stimuli. NK1 and sst2A receptors in lamina I were localised to mainly separate populations of retrogradely labelled cells with fusiform, flattened and pyramidal morphologies. Examples of projection neurones expressing both receptors were, however observed. With visceral stimulation, many retrogradely labelled cells expressing c-fos were immunoreactive for the NK1 receptor, and a smaller population was sst2A positive. In contrast, with cutaneous stimulation, only NK1 positive retrogradely labelled cells showed c-fos expression. These data provide evidence that lamina I neurones receiving noxious cutaneous and visceral stimuli via NK1 receptor activation project to NTS and so may be involved in coordinating nociceptive and cardiorespiratory responses. Moreover, a subpopulation of projection neurones that respond to visceral stimuli may receive somatostatinergic inputs of peripheral, local or supraspinal origins.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-266
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Chemical Neuroanatomy
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jul 2004
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • c-fos expression
  • Lamina I
  • Neurokinin
  • Nucleus of solitary tract
  • Retrograde tracing
  • Spinal cord


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