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Afferent Fiber Remodeling in the Somatosensory Thalamus of Mice as a Neural Basis of Somatotopic Reorganization in the Brain and Ectopic Mechanical Hypersensitivity after Peripheral Sensory Nerve Injury

Takeuchi, Y;Osaki, H;Yagasaki, Y;Katayama, Y;Miyata, M;

Plastic changes in the CNS in response to peripheral sensory nerve injury are a series of complex processes, ranging from local circuit remodeling to somatotopic reorganization. However, the link between circuit remodeling and somatotopic reorganization remains unclear. We have previously reported that transection of the primary whisker sensory nerve causes the abnormal rewiring of lemniscal fibers (sensory afferents) on a neuron in the mouse whisker sensory thalamus (V2 VPM). In the present study, using transgenic mice whose lemniscal fibers originate from the whisker sensory principle trigeminal nucleus (PrV2) are specifically labeled, we identified that the transection induced retraction of PrV2-originating lemniscal fibers and invasion of those not originating from PrV2 in the V2 VPM. This anatomical remodeling with somatotopic reorganization was highly correlated with the rewiring of lemniscal fibers. Origins of the non-PrV2-origin lemniscal fibers in the V2 VPM included the mandibular subregion of trigeminal nuclei and the dorsal column nuclei (DCNs), which normally represent body parts other than whiskers. The transection also resulted in ectopic receptive fields of V2 VPM neurons and extraterritorial pain behavior on the uninjured mandibular region of the face. The anatomical remodeling, emergence of ectopic receptive fields, and extraterritorial pain behavior all concomitantly developed within a week and lasted more than three months after the transection. Our findings, thus, indicate a strong linkage between these plastic changes after peripheral sensory nerve injury, which may provide a neural circuit basis underlying large-scale reorganization of somatotopic representation and abnormal ectopic sensations.