J Comp Neurol 337(1):63-69, 1993

Spinal projections of pelvic visceral afferents of the rat: a calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) immunohistochemical study.

Chung K, Lee WT, Park MJ

School of Allied Health Sciences, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston 77550.

Little information is available concerning the pelvic visceral afferent system, in view of its terminal location in the spinal cord and its associated transmitter substances in the rat. By utilizing an immunostaining method to examine the transneuronal neurotransmitter depletion resulting from peripheral sensory nerve injury, the spinal projections of primary afferent fibers containing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and originating from pelvic viscera were studied in the lumbosacral spinal cord of the rat.

After unilateral or bilateral pelvic nerve section, CGRP immunoreactivity in the lumbosacral spinal cord was decreased greatly in the sacral parasympathetic nucleus (SPN), the dorsolateral fasiculus, the medial border of the dorsal horn, the dorsal gray commissure (DGC), and the intermediate gray connecting the SPN and DGC.

Fine structural analysis showed that the CGRP-immunoreactive terminals made synaptic contact with dendrites and, rarely, with somata. Although there was some incidence of a synaptic contact between a CGRP-IR terminal and a vesicle-containing profile, definite evidence of axo-axonal synapse has not been confirmed.

These data indicate that CGRP-containing pelvic visceral primary afferent fibers project to autonomic areas of the lumbosacral spinal cord by way of the pelvic nerve and make synaptic contact with dendrites and somata.