Comparison of met‐enkephalin, dynorphin a, and neurotensin immunoreactive neurons in the cat and rat spinal cords: II. Segmental differences in the marginal zone

Kenneth Miller, Virginia S. Seybold

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This study examined the number of met‐enkephalin, dynorphin A 1–8, and neurotensin immunoreactive (IR) neurons in the marginal zone (lamina I) at one thoracic (T8:cat,T9:rat), one midlumbar (L5:cat,L4:rat), and one lower lumbar or sacral (S1:cat,L6:rat) spinal cord segment in the cat and rat. Marginal zone IR neurons ranged 10–70 μm in diameter in cats and 10–50 μm in rats and were flattened, pyramidal, fusiform, or polygonal in morphology. Immunoreactive neurons for each peptide in both species were found in the marginal zone at all spinal levels, but with a differential segmental distribution. The average number of IR neurons per 50‐:μm section generally was lowest in thoracic cord and greatest in lower lumbar/sacral cord for all peptides. For enkephalin and dynorphin, the estimated total number of IR neurons per segment and number of IR neurons per volume (mm3) generally were lowest in the midlumbar segments and highest in the thoracic and lower lumbar/sacral cord. For neurotensin, the estimated total number of neurons per segment remained lowest in the thoracic and largest in the lower lumbar/sacral cord. The number of neurotensin IR neurons per volume was equal in the thoracic and midlumbar cord, but remained highest at lower lumbar/sacral levels. The IR neurons quantified in this study may be interneurons or may serve as supraspinal projection neurons. The large number of IR neurons observed in segments receiving a relatively large visceral afferent input suggests that some of these neurons may be involved in visceral sensory processing. In addition, the segmental distribution of the IR neurons indicates that physiological and pharmacological studies on the effects of opioid and/or neurotensin peptides should be interpreted in light of the spinal segment(s) investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-628
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1989



  • dorsal horn
  • interneurons
  • lamina I
  • projection neurons
  • segmental distribution
  • visceral sensation

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