Transient receptor potential melastatin 8 (TRPM8) ion channels mediate the detection of noxious and innocuous cold and are expressed by primary sensory neurons, but little is known about the processing of the TRPM8-mediated cold information within the trigeminal sensory nuclei (TSN) and the spinal dorsal horn (DH). To address this issue, we characterized TRPM8-positive (+) neurons in the trigeminal ganglion and investigated the distribution of TRPM8+ axons and terminals, and their synaptic organization in the TSN and in the DH using light and electron microscopic immunohistochemistry in transgenic mice expressing a genetically encoded axonal tracer in TRPM8+ neurons. TRPM8 was expressed in a fraction of small myelinated primary afferent fibers (23.7%) and unmyelinated fibers (76.3%), suggesting that TRPM8-mediated cold is conveyed via C and Aδ afferents. TRPM8+ axons were observed in all TSN, but at different densities in the dorsal and ventral areas of the rostral TSN, which dominantly receive sensory afferents from intra- and perioral structures and from the face, respectively. While synaptic boutons arising from Aδ and non-peptidergic C afferents usually receive many axoaxonic contacts and form complex synaptic arrangements, TRPM8+ boutons arising from afferents of the same classes of fibers showed a unique synaptic connectivity; simple synapses with one or two dendrites and sparse axoaxonic contacts. These findings suggest that TRPM8-mediated cold is conveyed via a specific subset of C and Aδ afferent neurons and is processed in a unique manner and differently in the TSN and DH. © 2014 Kim et al.
Kim, Y. S., Park, J. H., Choi, S. J., Bae, J. Y., Ahn, D. K., McKemy, D. D., & Bae, Y. C. (2014). Central connectivity of transient receptor potential melastatin 8-expressing axons in the brain stem and spinal dorsal horn. PLoS ONE, 9(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0094080