Dental pulp is richly innervated with neurons containing calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) or substance P (SP). Prior studies have demonstrated that inflammation alters these pulpal neuropeptides. In this study, we used a radioimmunoassay to evaluate the specificity of this response and the contribution of axonal transport. Rat mandibular molars were exposed and immunoreactive CGRP (iCGRP) and immunoreactive SP were measured. At 7 to 14 days after exposure, both pulpal iCGRP (73%) and immunoreactive SP (135%) displayed peak increases above control levels. This response was somatotopically restricted, with no changes observed in contralateral (intact) molars, or in ipsilateral mandibular molars after exposure of maxillary molars. Transection of the inferior alveolar nerve on day 13 significantly reduced pulpal levels of iCGRP on day 14. Collectively, these studies indicate that pulpal inflammation evokes a selective alteration in neuropeptide levels, due at least in part to alterations in transport or synthesis of neuropeptides in the trigeminal ganglion.
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