Identifying spinal afferent (sensory) nerve endings that innervate the marrow cavity and periosteum using anterograde tracing

Jenny Thai, Melinda Kyloh, Lee Travis, Nick J. Spencer, Jason J. Ivanusic

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10 Citations (Scopus)


While sensory and sympathetic neurons are known to innervate bone, previous studies have found it difficult to unequivocally identify and characterize only those that are of sensory origin. In this study, we have utilized an in vivo anterograde tracing technique to selectively label spinal afferent (sensory) nerve endings that innervate the periosteum and marrow cavity of murine long bones. Unilateral injections of dextran–biotin (anterograde tracer; 20% in saline, 50–100 nl) were made into L3–L5 dorsal root ganglia. After a 10-day recovery period to allow sufficient time for selective anterograde transport of the tracer to nerve terminal endings in bone, the periosteum (whole-mount) and underlying bone were collected, processed to reveal anterograde labeling, and immuno-labeled with antibodies directed against protein gene product (pan-neuronal marker; PGP9.5), tyrosine hydroxylase (sympathetic neuron marker; TH), calcitonin gene-related protein (peptidergic nociceptor marker; CGRP), and/or neurofilament 200 (myelinated axon marker; NF200). Anterograde-labeled nerve endings were dispersed throughout the periosteum and marrow cavity and could be identified in close apposition to blood vessels and at sites distant from them. The periosteum and the marrow cavity were each innervated by myelinated (NF200+) sensory neurons, and unmyelinated (NF200‑) sensory neurons that were either peptidergic (CGRP+) or nonpeptidergic (CGRP‑). Spinal afferent nerve endings did not express TH, and lacked the cylindrical morphology around blood vessels characteristic of sympathetic innervation. This approach to selective labeling of sensory nerve terminal endings will help to better identify how different sub-populations of sensory neurons, and their peripheral nerve terminal endings, interact with bone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1903-1916
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2020


  • AB_2290729
  • AB_259091
  • AB_390204
  • AB_477272
  • bone marrow
  • dorsal root ganglia
  • nociceptors
  • nonpeptidergic
  • peptidergic
  • periosteum
  • RRIDs: AB_10548073
  • SCR_003070
  • SCR_013672
  • SCR_014235
  • sensory
  • spinal afferent


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