There is evidence that substance P is a peptide neurotransmitter of some unmyelinated primary afferent nociceptors and that its release from the peripheral terminals of primary afferent fibers mediates neurogenic inflammation. The investigators examined whether substance P also contributes to the severity of adjuvant-induced arthritis, an inflammatory disease in rats. They found that, in the rat, joints that developed more severe arthritis (ankles) were more densely innervated by substance P-containing primary afferent neurons than were joints that developed less severe arthritis (knees). Infusion of substance P into the knee increased the severity of arthritis; injection of a substance P receptor antagonist did not. These results suggest a significant physiological difference between joints that develop mild and severe arthritis and indicate that release of intraneuronal substance P in joints contributes to the severity of the arthritis.

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