Substance P-containing pyramidal neurons in the cat somatic sensory cortex

F. Conti, S. De Biasi, M. Fabri, L. Abdullah, T. Manzoni, P. Petrusz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Light and electron microscopic immunocytochemical methods were used to verify the possibility that neocortical pyramidal neurons in the first somatic sensory cortex of cats contain substance P. At the light microscopic level, substance P-positive neurons accounted for about 3% of all cortical neurons, and the vast majority were nonpyramidal cells. However, 10% of substance P-positive neurons had a large conical cell body, a prominent apical dendrite directed toward the pia, and basal dendrites, thus suggesting they are pyramidal neurons. These neurons were in layers III and V. At the electron microscopic level, the majority of immunoreactive axon terminals formed symmetric synapses, but some substance P-positive axon terminals made asymmetric synapses. Labelled dendritic spines were also present. Combined retrograde transport-immunocytochemical experiments were also carried out to study whether substance P-positive neurons are projection neurons. Colloidal gold-labelled wheat germ agglutinin conjugated to enzymatically inactive horseradish peroxidase was injected either in the first somatic sensory cortex or in the dorsal column nuclei. In the somatic sensory cortex contralateral to the injection sites, a few substance P-positive neurons in layers III and V also contained black granules, indicative of retrograde transport. This indicates that some substance P-positive neurons project to cortical and subcortical targets. We have therefore identified a subpopulation of substance P-positive neurons that have most of the features of pyramidal neurons, are the probable source of immunoreactive axon terminals forming asymmetric synapses on dendritic spines, and project to the contralateral somatic sensory cortex and dorsal column nuclei. These characteristics fulfill the criteria required for classifying a cortical neuron as pyramidal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-148
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1992


  • cerebral cortex
  • immunocytochemistry
  • nonpyramidal neurons
  • tachykinins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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