Convergence of bladder and colon sensory innervation occurs at the primary afferent level.
Dichotomizing afferents are individual dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons that innervate two distinct structures thereby providing a form of afferent convergence that may be involved in pelvic organ cross-sensitization. To determine the distribution of dichotomizing afferents supplying the distal colon and bladder of the Sprague-Dawley rat and the C57Bl/6 mouse, we performed concurrent retrograde labeling of urinary bladder and distal colon afferents using cholera toxin subunit B (CTB) fluorescent conjugates. Animals were perfused 4-5 days after sub-serosal organ injections, and the T10-S2 DRG were removed, sectioned, and analyzed using confocal microscopy. In the rat, CTB-positive afferents retrogradely labeled from the bladder were nearly three times more numerous than those labeled from the distal colon, while in the mouse, each organ was equally represented. In both species, the majority of colon and bladder afferents projected from lumbosacral (LS) ganglia and secondarily from thoracolumbar (TL) ganglia. In the rat, 17% of the total CTB-positive neurons were retrogradely labeled from both organs with 11% localized in TL, 6% in LS, and 0.8% in thoracic (TH) ganglia. In the mouse, 21% of the total CTB-positive neurons were dually-labeled with 12% localized in LS, 4% in TH, and 4% in TL ganglia. These findings support the existence of dichotomizing pelvic afferents, which provide a pre-existing neuronal substrate for possible immediate and maintained pelvic organ cross-sensitization and ultimately may play a role in the overlap of pelvic pain disorders.
Christianson, JA; Liang, R; Ustinova, EE; Davis, BM; Fraser, MO; Pezzone, MA
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