Disengaging spinal afferent nerve communication with the brain in live mice

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Our understanding of how abdominal organs (like the gut) communicate with the brain, via sensory nerves, has been limited by a lack of techniques to selectively activate or inhibit populations of spinal primary afferent neurons within dorsal root ganglia (DRG), of live animals. We report a survival surgery technique in mice, where select DRG are surgically removed (unilaterally or bilaterally), without interfering with other sensory or motor nerves. Using this approach, pain responses evoked by rectal distension were abolished by bilateral lumbosacral L5-S1 DRG removal, but not thoracolumbar T13-L1 DRG removal. However, animals lacking T13-L1 or L5-S1 DRG both showed reduced pain sensitivity to distal colonic distension. Removal of DRG led to selective loss of peripheral CGRP-expressing spinal afferent axons innervating visceral organs, arising from discrete spinal segments. This method thus allows spinal segment-specific determination of sensory pathway functions in conscious, free-to-move animals, without genetic modification.

Original languageEnglish
Article number915
Number of pages15
JournalCommunications Biology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2022


  • Brain
  • neurophysiology
  • sensory processing


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