Characterisation of One Class of Group III Sensory Neurons Innervating Abdominal Muscles of the Mouse

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Abstract

Group III/IV striated muscle afferents are small diameter sensory neurons that play important roles in reflexes and sensation. To date, the morphological features of physiologically characterised group III/IV muscular afferents have not been identified. Here, the electrophysiological and morphological characteristics of sensory neurons innervating striated muscles of the mouse abdominal wall were investigated, ex vivo. Extracellular recordings were made from subcostal nerve trunks innervating the muscles. A distinctive class of mechanosensitive afferents was identified by a combination of physiological features including sensitivity to local compression, saturating response to graded stretch and, in most cases, absence of spontaneous firing. Studies were restricted to these distinctive units. These units had conduction velocities averaging 14 ± 4 m/s (range: 8–20 m/s, n = 7); within the range of group III fibres in mice. Von Frey hairs were used to map receptive fields, which covered an area of 0.36 ± 0.18 mm2 (n = 7). In 7 preparations, biotinamide filling of recorded nerve trunks revealed a single axon in the marked receptive field, with distinctive axonal branching and terminations meandering through the connective tissue sandwiched between two closely associated muscle layers. These axons were not immunoreactive for CGRP (n = 7) and were not activated by application of capsaicin (1 µM, n = 14). All of these afferents were strongly activated by a “metabolite mix” containing lactate, adenosine triphosphate and reduced pH. Responses to mechanical stimuli and to metabolites were additive. We have characterised a distinctive class of mechano- and chemo-sensitive group III afferent endings associated with connective tissue close to muscle fibres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-175
Number of pages14
JournalNeuroscience
Volume421
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • Chemosensitivity
  • Group III
  • Mechanosensitivity
  • Metabolites
  • Muscle afferents
  • Sensory

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