Collateral Projections from the Medullary Dorsal Horn to the Ventral Posteromedial Thalamic Nucleus and the Parafascicular Thalamic Nucleus in the Rat.


Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology & K. K. Leung Brain Research Centre, The Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an 710032, China. Electronic address: [Email]


Medullary dorsal horn (MDH), the homolog of spinal dorsal horn, plays essential roles in processing of nociceptive signals from orofacial region toward higher centers, such as the ventral posteromedial thalamic nucleus (VPM) and parafascicular thalamic nucleus (Pf), which belong to the sensory-discriminative and affective aspects of pain transmission systems at the thalamic level, respectively. In the present study, in order to provide morphological evidence for whether neurons in the MDH send collateral projections to the VPM and Pf, a retrograde double tracing method combined with immunofluorescence staining for substance P (SP), SP receptor (SPR) and Fos protein was used. Fluoro-gold (FG) was injected into the VPM and the tetramethylrhodamine-dextran (TMR) was injected into the Pf. The result revealed that both FG- and TMR-labeled projection neurons were observed throughout the entire extent of the MDH, while the FG/TMR double-labeled neurons were mainly located in laminae I and III. It was also found that some of the FG/TMR double-labeled neurons within lamina I expressed SPR and were in close contact with SP-immunoreactive (SP-ir) terminals. After formalin injection into the orofacial region, 41.4% and 34.3% of the FG/TMR double-labeled neurons expressed Fos protein in laminae I and III, respectively. The present results provided morphological evidence for that some SPR-expressing neurons within the MDH send collateral projections to both VPM and Pf and might be involved in sensory-discriminative and affective aspects of acute orofacial nociceptive information transmission.


collateral projection,medullary dorsal horn,parafascicular thalamic nucleus,substance P,substance P receptor,ventral posteromedial thalamic nucleus,