Longitudinal intravital imaging nerve degeneration and sprouting in the toes of spared nerve injured mice

Han Yuan Yeh, Jye Chang Lee, Han Hsiung Chi, Chih Cheng Chen, Qin Liu, Chen Tung Yen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage to the somatosensory nervous system. Both degenerating injured nerves and neighboring sprouting nerves can contribute to neuropathic pain. However, the mesoscale changes in cutaneous nerve fibers over time after the loss of the parent nerve has not been investigated in detail. In this study, we followed the changes in nerve fibers longitudinally in the toe tips of mice that had undergone spared nerve injury (SNI). Nav1.8-tdTomato, Thy1-GFP and MrgD-GFP mice were used to observe the small and large cutaneous nerve fibers. We found that peripheral nerve plexuses degenerated within 3 days of nerve injury, and free nerve endings in the epidermis degenerated within 2 days. The timing of degeneration paralleled the initiation of mechanical hypersensitivity. We also found that some of the Nav1.8-positive nerve plexuses and free nerve endings in the fifth toe survived, and sprouting occurred mostly from 7 to 28 days. The timing of the sprouting of nerve fibers in the fifth toe paralleled the maintenance phase of mechanical hypersensitivity. Our results support the hypotheses that both injured and intact nerve fibers participate in neuropathic pain, and that, specifically, nerve degeneration is related to the initiation of evoked pain and nerve sprouting is related to the maintenance of evoked pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3247-3264
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • MrgD-GFP
  • Nav1.8-tdTomato
  • Thy1-GFP
  • cutaneous nerve fibers
  • intravital imaging
  • neuropathic pain


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