PublicationsPain-related changes in cutaneous innervation of patients suffering from bortezomib-induced, diabetic or chronic idiopathic axonal polyneuropathy
Consistent associations between the severity of neuropathic pain and cutaneous innervation have not been described. We collected demographic and clinical data, McGill Pain Questionnaires (MPQ) and skin biopsies processed for PGP9.5 and CGRP immunohistochemistry from patients with bortezomib-induced peripheral neuropathy (BiPN; n = 22), painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN; n = 16), chronic idiopathic axonal polyneuropathy (CIAP; n = 16) and 17 age-matched healthy volunteers. Duration of neuropathic symptoms was significantly shorter in patients with BiPN in comparison with PDN and CIAP patients. BiPN was characterized by a significant increase in epidermal axonal swellings and upper dermis nerve fiber densities (UDNFD) and a decrease in subepidermal nerve fiber densities (SENFD) of PGP9.5-positive fibers and of PGP9.5 containing structures that did not show CGRP labeling, presumably non-peptidergic fibers. In PDN and CIAP patients, intraepidermal nerve fiber densities (IENFD) and SENFD of PGP9.5-positive and of non-peptidergic fibers were decreased in comparison with healthy volunteers. Significant unadjusted associations between IENFD and SENFD of CGRP-positive, i.e. peptidergic, fibers and the MPQ sensory-discriminative, as well as between UDNFD of PGP9.5-positive fibers and the MPQ evaluative/affective component of neuropathic pain, were found in BiPN and CIAP patients. No significant associations were found in PDN patients. Cutaneous innervation changes in BiPN confirm characteristic features of early, whereas those in CIAP and PDN are in line with late forms of neuropathic pathology. Our results allude to a distinct role for non-peptidergic nociceptors in BiPN and CIAP patients. The lack of significant associations in PDN may be caused by mixed ischemic and purely neuropathic pain pathology.