Apposition of enkephalin- and neurotensin-immunoreactive neurons by serotonin-immunoreactive varicosities in the rat spinal cord

K. E. Miller, A. T. Salvatierra

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The descending serotonergic system provides a powerful inhibitory input to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Little is known about the chemical identity of the spinal neurons that the serotonergic system innervates, although spinal enkephalinergic neurons are likely candidates. This study investigated the apposition of serotonin-immunoreactive varicosities onto enkephalin- and neurotensin-immunereactive neurons in the rat lumbosacral spinal cord. Using a double immunofluorescence technique, serotonin- immunoreactive varicosities were observed to abut the soma or proximal dendrites of [Met]enkephalin- and neurotensin-immunoreactive neurons. Nearly 75% of all [Met]enkephalin and neurotensin-immunoreactive neurons were apposed by serotonin-immunoreactive varicosities in the marginal zone and dorsal gray commissure. In substantia gelatinosa, approximately half of the [Met]enkephalin- and neurotensin-immunoreactive neurons were juxtaposed by serotonin-immunereactive varicosities. [Met]enkephalin-immunoreactive neurons also were bordered by serotonin-immunoreactive varicosities in the nucleus proprius (65%) and sacral parasympathetic nucleus (75%). The results of this study suggest that the descending serotonergic system mediates nociception via probable contacts with intrinsic enkephalin and neurotensin spinal systems. The mode of action of spinal serotonin on enkephalin and neurotensin neurons may be through 'volume' transmission vs synaptic or 'wiring' transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-846
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 24 Apr 1998



  • Analgesia
  • Antinociception
  • Nociception
  • Raphespinal
  • Sacral parasympathetic
  • Serotonin receptor

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