Peripheral innervation patterns of proprioceptive afferents from dorsal root ganglia and the mesencephalic trigeminal nucleus were assessed in trkC- deficient mice using immunohistochemistry for protein gene product 9.5 and parvalbumin. In trkC knockout mice, spinal proprioceptive afferents were completely absent in the limb skeletal muscles, M. biceps femoris and M. gastrocnemius, as previously reported. In these same animals, however, proprioceptive afferents from mesencephalic trigeminal nucleus innervated masseter muscles and formed primary endings of muscle spindles. Three wild- type mice averaged 35.7 spindle profiles (range: 31-41), six heterozygotes averaged 32.3 spindles (range: 27-41), and four homozygotes averaged 32.8 spindles (range: 26-42). Parvalbumin and Nissl staining of the brain stem showed approximately 50% surviving mesencephalic trigeminal sensory neurons in trkC-deficient mice. TrkC -/- mice (n = 5) had 309.4 ± 15.9 mesencephalic trigeminal sensory cells versus 616.5 ± 26.3 the sensory cells in trkC +/+ mice (n = 4). These data indicate that while mesencephalic trigeminal sensory neurons are significantly reduced in number by trkC deletion, they are not completely absent. Furthermore, unlike their spinal counterparts, trigeminal proprioceptive afferents survive and give rise to stretch receptor complexes in masseter muscles of trkC knockout mice. This indicates that spinal and mesencephalic trigeminal proprioceptive afferents have different neurotrophin-supporting system during survival and differentiation. It is likely that one or more other neurotrophin receptors expressed in mesencephalic trigeminal proprioceptive neurons of trkC knockout mice compensate for the lack of normal neurotrophin-3 signaling through trkC.
- Masseter muscle
- Mesencephalic trigeminal nucleus
- Muscle spindle
- Mutant mice
- Proprioceptive afferent