Background: Antigen-specific and MHCII-restricted CD4+ αβ T cells have been shown or suggested to play an important role in the transition from acute to chronic mechanical allodynia after peripheral nerve injuries. However, it is still largely unknown where these T cells infiltrate along the somatosensory pathways transmitting mechanical allodynia to initiate the development of chronic mechanical allodynia after nerve injuries. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to ascertain the definite neuroimmune interface for these T cells to initiate the development of chronic mechanical allodynia after peripheral nerve injuries. Methods: First, we utilized both chromogenic and fluorescent immunohistochemistry (IHC) to map αβ T cells along the somatosensory pathways for the transmission of mechanical allodynia after modified spared nerve injuries (mSNIs), i.e., tibial nerve injuries, in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. We further characterized the molecular identity of these αβ T cells selectively infiltrating into the leptomeninges of L4 dorsal roots (DRs). Second, we identified the specific origins in lumbar lymph nodes (LLNs) for CD4+ αβ T cells selectively present in the leptomeninges of L4 DRs by two experiments: (1) chromogenic IHC in these lymph nodes for CD4+ αβ T cell responses after mSNIs and (2) fluorescent IHC for temporal dynamics of CD4+ αβ T cell infiltration into the L4 DR leptomeninges after mSNIs in prior lymphadenectomized or shamoperated animals to LLNs. Finally, following mSNIs, we evaluated the effects of region-specific targeting of these T cells through prior lymphadenectomy to LLNs and chronic intrathecal application of the suppressive anti-αβTCR antibodies on the development of mechanical allodynia by von Frey hair test and spinal glial or neuronal activation by fluorescent IHC.
Fluorescent immunolabeling and imaging in free-floating thick (50-60 μm) tissue sections is relatively simple in practice and enables design-based non-biased stereology, or 3-D reconstruction and analysis. This method is widely used for 3-D in situ quantitative biology in many areas of biological research. However, the labeling quality and efficiency of standard protocols for fluorescent immunolabeling of these tissue sections are not always satisfactory. Here, we systematically evaluate the effects of raising the conventional antibody incubation temperatures (4°C or 21°C) to mammalian body temperature (37°C) in these protocols. Our modification significantly enhances the quality (labeling sensitivity, specificity, and homogeneity) and efficiency (antibody concentration and antibody incubation duration) of fluorescent immunolabeling of free-floating thick tissue sections.
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