The Journal of comparative neurology

Neuropeptide receptors in developing and adult rat spinal cord: an in vitro quantitative autoradiography study of calcitonin gene-related peptide, neurokinins, mu-opioid, galanin, somatostatin, neurotensin and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide receptors.

PMID 7782502


A number of neuroactive peptides including calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), substance P, neurokinin B, opioids, somatostatin (SRIF), galanin, neurotensin and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) have been localized in adult rat spinal cord and are considered to participate either directly and/or indirectly in the processing of sensory, motor and autonomic functions. Most of these peptides appear early during development, leading to the suggestion that peptides, in addition to their neurotransmitter/neuromodulator roles, may possibly be involved in the normal growth and maturation of the spinal cord. To provide an anatomical substrate for a better understanding of the possible roles of peptides in the ontogenic development of the cord, we investigated the topographical profile as well as variation in densities of [125I]hCGRP alpha, [125I]substance P/neurokinin-1 (NK-1), [125I]eledoisin/neurokinin-3 (NK-3), [125I]FK 33-824 ([D-Ala2, Me-Phe4, Met(O)ol5]enkephalin)/mu-opioid, [125I]galanin, [125I]T0D8-SRIF14 (an analog of somatostatin); [125I]neurotensin and [125I]VIP binding sites in postnatal and adult rat spinal cord using in vitro quantitative receptor autoradiography. Receptor binding sites recognized by each radioligand are found to be distributed widely during early stages of postnatal development and then to undergo selective modification to attain their adult profile of distribution during the third week of postnatal development. The apparent density of various receptor sites, however, are differently regulated depending on the lamina and the stage of development studied. For example, the density of mu-opioid binding sites, following a peak at postnatal day 4 (P4), declines gradually in almost all regions of the spinal cord with the increasing age of the animal. [125I]substance P/NK-1 binding sites, on the other hand, show very little variation until P14 and then subsequently decrease as the development proceeds. In the adult rat, most of these peptide receptor binding sites are localized in relatively high amounts in the superficial laminae of the dorsal horn. To varying extents, moderate to low density of various peptide receptor binding sites are also found to be present in the ventral horn, intermediolateral cell column and around the central canal. Taken together, these results suggest that each receptor-ligand system is regulated differently during development and may each uniquely be involved in cellular growth, differentiation and in maturation of the normal neural circuits of the spinal cord. Furthermore, the selective localization of various receptor binding sites in adult rat spinal cord over a wide variety of functionally distinct regions reinforces the neurotransmitter/modulator roles of these peptides in sensory, motor and autonomic functions associated with the spinal cord.