The complex neuronal circuitry of the dorsal horn of the spinal cord is as yet poorly understood. However, defining the circuits underlying the transmission of information from primary afferents to higher levels is critical to our understanding of sensory processing. In this study, we have examined phosphodiesterase 1C (Pde1c) BAC transgenic mice in which a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter gene reflects Pde1c expression in sensory neuron subpopulations in the dorsal root ganglia and spinal cord.
Using double labeling immunofluorescence, we demonstrate GFP expression in specific subpopulations of primary sensory neurons and a distinct neuronal expression pattern within the spinal cord dorsal horn. In the dorsal root ganglia, their distribution is restricted to those subpopulations of primary sensory neurons that give rise to unmyelinated C fibers (neurofilament 200 negative). A small proportion of both non-peptidergic (IB4-binding) and peptidergic (CGRP immunoreactive) subclasses expressed GFP. However, GFP expression was more common in the non-peptidergic than the peptidergic subclass. GFP was also expressed in a subpopulation of the primary sensory neurons immunoreactive for the vanilloid receptor TRPV1 and the ATP-gated ion channel P2X3. In the spinal cord dorsal horn, GFP positive neurons were largely restricted to lamina I and to a lesser extent lamina II, but surprisingly did not coexpress markers for key neuronal populations present in the superficial dorsal horn.
The expression of GFP in subclasses of nociceptors and also in dorsal horn regions densely innervated by nociceptors suggests that Pde1c marks a unique subpopulation of nociceptive sensory neurons.