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Tactile sensitivity in the rat: a correlation between receptor structure and function
Experimental Brain Research  (IF1.972),  Pub Date : 2021-09-14, DOI: 10.1007/s00221-021-06193-7
Guzun, Lucia, Fortier-Poisson, Pascal, Langlais, Jean-Sébastien, Smith, Allan M.

Single cutaneous fibers were recorded in the median nerve of the deeply anesthetized rat and the receptor morphology in the forelimb glabrous skin was analyzed to establish a probable correlation between receptor anatomy and physiology. Receptor complexes in the glabrous skin of the rat forelimb were stained immunologically with antibodies NF-200 and PGP-9.5, confirming the presence of Meissner corpuscles and Merkel complexes within the dermal papilla similar to other mammals including primates. Both the Meissner corpuscles and Merkel cell complexes were sparse and located in the pyramidal-shaped palmer pads and the apex of the digit extremities. They were almost totally absent elsewhere in the glabrous skin. No Ruffini receptors or Pacinian corpuscles were found in our samples. A total of 92 cutaneous fibers were retained long enough for analysis. Thirty-five (38%) were characterized as rapidly adapting fibers (RA) and 57 (62%) were slowly adapting afferents (SA). Despite the very limited number of receptors at the tip of the digit, RA receptors outnumbered SA fibers 3.2/1.0. In contrast, SA fibers on the thenar pad outnumbered RA receptors by a ratio of 3–1. Despite the very limited number of low threshold mechanoreceptors in the glabrous skin of the rat forelimb, the prevalence of SA afferents in the palm and more frequent occurrence of RA afferents in the digit extremity suggest differences in functionality both for locomotion and object manipulation.