The Journal Of Neuroscience : The Official Journal Of The Society For Neuroscience
Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons are classified into distinct types to mediate the somatosensation with different modalities. Recently, transcriptional profilings of DRG neurons by single-cell RNA-sequencing have provided new insights into the neuron typing and functional properties. Zinc-finger CCHC domain-containing 12 (Zcchc12) was reported to be the representative marker for a subtype of Gal-positive (Gal+) DRG neurons. However, the characteristics and functions of Zcchc12+ neurons are largely unknown. Here, we genetically labelled Zcchc12+ neurons in Zcchc12-CreERT2::Ai9 mice, and verified that Zcchc12 represented a new subpopulation of DRG neurons in both sexes. Zcchc12+ neurons centrally innervated the superficial laminae in spinal dorsal horn, and peripherally terminated as free nerve endings in the epidermis and cluster-shaped fibers in the dermis of footpads and nearby. Besides, Zcchc12+ neurons also formed circumferential endings surround the hair follicles in hairy skin. Functionally, in vivo calcium imaging in DRGs revealed that Zcchc12+ neurons were polymodal nociceptors and could be activated by mechanical and noxious thermal stimuli. Behavioral tests showed that selective ablation of Zcchc12+ DRG neurons reduced the sensitivity to noxious heat in mice. Taken together, we identify a new subpopulation of Zcchc12+ nociceptors essential for noxious heat sensation.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:Zcchc12 represents a new subpopulation of DRG neurons. The characteristics and functions of Zcchc12+ neurons are largely unknown. Here we genetically labelled Zcchc12 neurons, and showed that the fibers of Zcchc12+ DRG neurons projected to superficial lamina at spinal dorsal horn, and innervated skin as free nerve endings in the epidermis and cluster-shaped fibers in the dermis of footpads and nearby. Functionally, Zcchc12+ DRG neurons responded to noxious mechanical and heat stimuli. Ablation of Zcchc12+ DRG neurons impaired the sensation of noxious heat in mice. Therefore, we identify a new subpopulatipn of DRG neurons required for noxious heat sensation.