Vanilloid receptor VR1 is both presynaptic and postsynaptic in the superficial laminae of the rat dorsal horn

Juli G. Valtschanoff, Aldo Rustioni, Athena Guo, Se Jin Hwang

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127 Scopus citations


Terminals in the rat spinal cord that express the vanilloid receptor VR1 are from small and medium dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons and appear prominent in lamina I and inner lamina II. Because primary afferents from these neurons can be myelinated or unmyelinated and their terminals in these laminae can be of various morphological and functional types, we undertook this study to identify the type(s) of VR1-positive afferent fibers and terminals. In the DRG, many small and medium-sized neurons are immunopositive. Under electron microscopy, dorsal root afferents that are immunopositive for VR1 are predominantly unmyelinated. Large numbers of VR1-positive terminals in lamina I are of the nonglomerular type and may contain dense core vesicles. VR1 immunoreactivity in terminals in lamina I is in good agreement with data on noxious, heat-sensitive neurons in the dorsal horn. Two types of glomerular afferent terminals in lamina II also are immunopositive for VR1. In both laminae, most VR1-positive terminals are distinct from substance P-positive terminals. However, the immunoreactivity in lamina II also is prominent in dendrites that are contacted by primary afferent endings. Because we also observed patchy immunostaining in cell bodies in lamina II, this unexpected result may reflect synthesis of VR1 by neurons in this lamina. However, because dorsal rhizotomy abolishes VR1 staining in both laminae I and II, it is suggested that the expression and intracellular dynamics of VR1 in lamina II neurons are controlled by presynaptic input.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-235
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001 Jul 23


  • Capsaicin
  • Dorsal root
  • Dorsal root ganglion
  • Nociception
  • Substance P
  • Substantia gelatinosa

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