Origins of skeletal pain: Sensory and sympathetic innervation of the mouse femur

D. B. Mach, S. D. Rogers, M. C. Sabino, N. M. Luger, M. J. Schwei, J. D. Pomonis, C. P. Keyser, Denis R Clohisy, D. J. Adams, P. O’leary, P. W. Mantyh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

532 Scopus citations


Although skeletal pain plays a major role in reducing the quality of life in patients suffering from osteoarthritis, Paget's disease, sickle cell anemia and bone cancer, little is known about the mechanisms that generate and maintain this pain. To define the peripheral fibers involved in transmitting and modulating skeletal pain, we used immunohistochemistry with antigen retrieval, confocal microscopy and three-dimensional image reconstruction of the bone to examine the sensory and sympathetic innervation of mineralized bone, bone marrow and periosteum of the normal mouse femur. Thinly myelinated and unmyelinated peptidergic sensory fibers were labeled with antibodies raised against calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and the unmyelinated, non-peptidergic sensory fibers were labeled with the isolectin B4 (Bandeira simplicifolia). Myelinated sensory fibers were labeled with an antibody raised against 200-kDa neurofilament H (clone RT-97). Sympathetic fibers were labeled with an antibody raised against tyrosine hydroxylase. CGRP, RT-97, and tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactive fibers, but not isolectin B4 positive fibers, were present throughout the bone marrow, mineralized bone and the periosteum. While the periosteum is the most densely innervated tissue, when the total volume of each tissue is considered, the bone marrow receives the greatest total number of sensory and sympathetic fibers followed by mineralized bone and then periosteum. Understanding the sensory and sympathetic innervation of bone should provide a better understanding of the mechanisms that drive bone pain and aid in developing therapeutic strategies for treating skeletal pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-166
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NIH Grants NINDS NS23970, NIDA 11986, NIDCR Training Grant DEO7288 (D.B.M.), DE00270 (M.C.S.), AR43595, a Merit Review from the Veterans Administration and a grant from the Supercomputing Institute for Digital Simulation and Advanced Computation at the University of Minnesota.


  • Bone
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Marrow
  • Micro-computed tomography
  • Nerves
  • Periosteum


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