Neurokinin A-like immunoreactivity of dorsal root ganglion neurons innervating the kidney were studied with retrograde tracing of FluoroGold dye applied to the cut renal nerves. The proportions and sizes of renal afferent neurons with neurokinin A-like immunoreactivity were quantified in T9-L2 dorsal root ganglia from five rats. Of 240 renal afferent neuronal somata examined, 26 ± 3% (S.E.M.) showed neurokinin A-like immunoreactivity. Compared with the overall size distribution of renal afferent neurons, those staining for neurokinin A were mostly small-sized neurons with a few medium-sized neurons. All somata with neurokinin A-like immunoreactivity were neurofilament-poor as judged by labelling with an anti-neurofilament antibody, RT97, and it is therefore likely that they had unmyelinated fibres. To examine the sites to which the renal afferent fibres with neurokinin A might project, sections of rat and guinea-pig kidney and upper ureter were examined. Fibres with neurokinin A-like immunoreactivity were found beneath and within the transitional epithelium lining the inner surface of the pelvis, and within the smooth muscle layer beneath the transitional epithelium. Epithelial innervation was found only in regions with underlying smooth muscle and loose connective tissue, and not in sites where the epithelium was closely applied to the renal parenchyma. The network of fibres was most dense towards the pelvo-uretic junction. Fibres with neurokinin A-like immunoreactivity were not seen beneath or within the cuboidal/columnar epithelium covering the papilla within the renal pelvis. Furthermore, only very few fibres with neurokinin A were observed penetrating the transitional epithelium of the upper ureter in both rat and guinea-pig. The distribution of fibres labelled with antibodies to substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide in the renal pelvis was similar to that for fibres with neurokinin A-like immunoreactivity, although a few fibres penetrated further into the fornices than fibres with neurokinin A-like immunoreactivity. Thus, many afferent fibres in the renal pelvis may contain neurokinin A as well as substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide. These fibres may be the source of the neurokinin A, substance P and calcitonin gene-related peptide which can be released by topical capsaicin treatment. In addition they may be the mechano- and chemo-receptive fibres in the renal pelvis that are known to play important roles in renal haemodynamics. The intra-epithelial position of some of these fibres in the epithelial layer suggests a possible chemosensory or osmosensory role.
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