Kainate receptors are primarily postsynaptic to SP-containing axon terminals in the trigeminal dorsal horn

Deborah M. Hegarty, Jennifer L. Mitchell, Kristin C. Swanson, Sue A. Aicher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Kainate receptors (KARs) are involved in the modulation and transmission of nociceptive information from peripheral afferents to neurons in the spinal cord and trigeminal dorsal horns. KARs are found at both pre- and postsynaptic sites in the dorsal horn. We hypothesized that KARs and Substance P (SP), a modulatory neuropeptide that is used as a marker of nociceptive afferents, have a complex interactive relationship. To determine the cellular relationship and connectivity between KARs and SP afferents, we used electron microscopic dual immunocytochemical analysis to examine the ultrastructural localization of KAR subunits GluR5, 6 and 7 (GluR5,6,7) in relation to SP within laminae I and II in the rat trigeminal dorsal horn. KARs were distributed both postsynaptically in dendrites and somata (51% of GluR5,6,7 immunoreactive (-ir) profiles) and presynaptically in axons and axon terminals (45%). We also found GluR5,6,7-ir glial profiles (5%). The majority of SP-ir profiles were presynaptic axons and axon terminals. SP-ir dendritic profiles were rare, yet 23% contained GluR5,6,7 immunoreactivity. GluR5,6,7 and SP were also colocalized at presynaptic sites (18% of GluR5,6,7-ir axons and axon terminals contained SP; while 11% of SP-ir axons and axon terminals contained GluR5,6,7). The most common interaction between KARs and SP we observed was GluR5,6,7-ir dendrites contacted by SP-ir axon terminals; 54% of the dendritic targets of SP-ir axon terminals were GluR5,6,7-ir. These results provide anatomical evidence that KARs primarily mediate nociceptive transmission postsynaptic to SP-containing afferents and may also modulate the presynaptic release of SP and glutamate in trigeminal dorsal horn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-159
Number of pages11
JournalBrain research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 12 2007


  • Electron microscopy
  • Glutamate receptor
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Kainate receptor
  • Nociception
  • Substance P

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Kainate receptors are primarily postsynaptic to SP-containing axon terminals in the trigeminal dorsal horn'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this