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Molecular genetic visualization of a rare subset of unmyelinated sensory neurons that may detect gentle touch

Nature Neuroscience volume 10, pages 946948 (2007) | Download Citation

Abstract

C-fiber tactile afferents are a subpopulation of unmyelinated cutaneous sensory neurons activated by gentle stroking. Using a genetically encoded tracer, we found that Mas-related G protein–coupled receptor B4 marks a rare subpopulation of unmyelinated, nonpeptidergic sensory fibers that exclusively innervate hairy skin. These fibers terminate in large arborizations similar in size and distribution to C-fiber tactile afferent receptive fields, suggesting that MrgprB4 may provide genetic access to these elusive neurons in mice.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Pease for mouse assistance and J. Edens for electron microscopy. This work was supported by Alfred P. Sloan Neuroscience and Whitehall Foundation grants (X.D. and M.J.Z.), a Blaustein Pain research fund award (XD) and a European Molecular Biology Organization fellowship (S.V.). D.J.A. is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, 725 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, Maryland, 21205, USA.

    • Qin Liu
    •  & Xinzhong Dong
  2. Division of Biology, 216-76, California Institute of Technology, 1201 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, California 91125, USA.

    • Sophia Vrontou
    •  & David J Anderson
  3. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 1201 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, California 91125, USA.

    • Sophia Vrontou
    •  & David J Anderson
  4. Center for Neuropharmacology and Neuroscience, Albany Medical College, 43 New Scotland Ave., Albany, New York 12208, USA.

    • Frank L Rice
  5. Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, UNC Neuroscience Center, University of North Carolina, 105 Mason Farm Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.

    • Mark J Zylka

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Contributions

X.D. generated the MrgprB4-PLAP mice, Q.L. carried out the bulk of the immunohistochemical characterization and analysis of these mice, S.V. contributed to the initial analysis and participated in the electron microscopic PLAP experiments, M.J.Z. generated and analyzed MrgprDPLAP/EGFP spinal cord, F.L.R. provided expert advice on interpretation of epidermal innervation and D.J.A. supervised the project and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Xinzhong Dong or David J Anderson.

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    Supplementary Text and Figures

    Supplementary Figures 1–4, Table 1, Discussion

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1937

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