Transganglionic transport of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) or horseradish peroxidase‐wheat germ agglutinin conjugate (HRP‐WGA) was used to map in detail the central projections of trigeminal primary afferent neurons that innervate the dental pulp organ of the rat. In each of ten animals, 0.5–2.0 μl of enzyme solution was injected into the pulp chamber of the first maxillary molar tooth. Postmortem examination of the decalcified teeth in all cases showed that the HRP/HRP‐WGA remained confined to the pulp chamber and pulp roots, with no spread of enzyme into periapical tissues. HRP‐labeled tooth pulp afferent fibers projected to all four rostrocaudal subdivisions of the ipsilateral trigeminal brainstem nuclear complex (TBNC) and to the upper cervical spinal cord. The labeled terminal fields formed a column that stretched relatively uninterrupted from just caudal to the rostromedial tip of the trigeminal principal sensory nucleus to at least the C2 segment of the spinal cord. The density of the afferent projection varied markedly from one rostrocaudal level of the TBNC to the next but was heaviest in an area encompassing the caudal one‐half of the principal sensory nucleus and the rostral two‐thirds of pars oralis. Fibers projected only lightly to pars caudalis, where they terminated preferentially in laminae I, IIa, and the junctional zone between laminae IV and V. HRP‐labeled terminals in C1 and C2 were located almost exclusively in laminae I. In the dorsoventral axis, the terminal fields in the TBNC were located in a surprisingly dorsal part of the complex, well within what has been shown by others to be largely an area of termination for mandibular division fibers. Most fibers ended in medial parts of the TBNC, with the exception of two modestly labeled terminal fields located in the lateral aspects of rostral pars oralis and rostral pars caudalis. No labeled fibers terminated in the contralateral TBNC or contralateral cervical spinal cord.
- HRP‐WGA transganglionic transport
- pain pathways
- tooth pulp innervation
- trigeminal nuclei
- trigeminal primary sensory neurons
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