Trigeminal afferents convey nociceptive information from the corneal surface of the eye to the trigeminal subnucleus caudalis (Vc). Trigeminal afferents, like other nociceptors, are thought to use glutamate and neuropeptides as neurotransmitters. The current studies examined whether corneal afferents contain both neuropeptides and vesicular glutamate transporters. Corneal afferents to the Vc were identified by using cholera toxin B (CTb). Corneal afferents project in two clusters to the rostral and caudal borders of the Vc, regions that contain functionally distinct nociceptive neurons. Thus, corneal afferents projecting to these two regions were examined separately. Dual immunocytochemical studies combined CTb with either calcitonin generelated peptide (CGRP), substance P (SP), vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (VGluT1), or VGluT2. Corneal afferents were more likely to contain CGRP than SP, and corneal afferents projecting to the rostral region were more likely to contain CGRP than afferents projecting caudally. Overall, corneal afferents were equally likely to contain VGluT1 or VGluT2. Together, 61% of corneal afferents contained either VGluT1 or VGluT2, suggesting that some afferents lack a VGluT. Caudal corneal afferents were more likely to contain VGluT2 than VGluT1, whereas rostral corneal afferents were more likely to contain VGluT1 than VGluT2. Triple-labeling studies combining CTb, CGRP, and VGluT2 showed that very few corneal afferents contain both CGRP and VGluT2, caudally (1%) and rostrally (2%). These results suggest that most corneal afferents contain a peptide or a VGluT, but rarely both. Our results are consistent with a growing literature suggesting that glutamatergic and peptidergic sensory afferents may be distinct populations.
- calcitonin gene-related peptide
- confocal microscopy
- substance P
ASJC Scopus subject areas