After peripheral nerve injury, regeneration or collateral sprouting of noradrenergic nerve fibres in the papillary dermis of the injured limb may contribute to sympathetically-maintained pain. The aim of this study was to determine whether noradrenergic nerve fibre regeneration after partial sciatic nerve ligation (PSL) in Wistar rats was accompanied by parallel shifts in expression of the noradrenaline transporter (NAT). Four or 28 days after PSL surgery, immunohistochemistry was used to examine NAT expression in plantar hind paw skin in relation to pan-neuronal markers (class III beta-tubulin and protein gene product 9.5), peptidergic afferents containing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), nonpeptidergic afferents labelled by isolectin B4 (IB4), and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), a marker for cutaneous noradrenergic nerve fibres. Most dermal nerve fibre populations decreased shortly after PSL. However, four weeks after PSL, an increase in staining intensity of CGRP and novel expression of TH were observed in the papillary dermis on the injured side. In contrast, neural expression of NAT was reduced in this region. Loss of NAT might have implications for sympathetically-maintained pain, as failure to rapidly clear noradrenaline could exacerbate aberrant sympathetic-sensory signalling between closely apposed noradrenergic and peptidergic nerve fibres.
- Calcitonin gene-related peptide
- Noradrenaline transporter
- Partial sciatic nerve ligation