Recent evidence suggests that substance P (SP) is upregulated in primary sensory neurons following axotomy, and that this change occurs in larger neurons that do not usually produce SP. If so, this upregulation may allow normally neighboring, uninjured, and non-nociceptive dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons to become effective in activating pain pathways. Using immunohistochemistry, we performed a unilateral L5 spinal nerve transection upon male Wistar rats, and measured SP expression in ipsilateral L4 and L5 DRGs and contralateral L5 DRGs, at 1 to 14 days postoperatively (dpo), and in control and sham operated rats. In normal and sham operated DRGs, SP was detectable almost exclusively in small neurons (≤ 800 μm2). Following surgery, the mean size of SP-positive neurons from the axotomized L5 ganglia was greater at 2, 4, 7 and 14 dpo. Among large neurons (> 800 μm2) from the axotomized L5, the percentage of SPpositive neurons increased at 2, 4, 7, and 14 dpo. Among small neurons from the axotomized L5, the percentage of SP-positive neurons was increased at 1 and 3 dpo, but was decreased at 7 and 14 dpo. Thus, SP expression is affected by axonal damage, and the time course of the expression is different between large and small DRG neurons. These data support a role of SP-producing, large DRG neurons in persistent sensory changes due to nerve injury.
Weissner, Wendy; Winterson, Barbara J.; Stuart-Tilley, Alan; Devor, Marshall; and Bove, Geoffrey M., "Time Course Of Substance P Expression In Dorsal Root Ganglia Following Complete Spinal Nerve Transection" (2006). Biomedical Sciences Faculty Publications. 13.