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Research paper
TRPV1, CGRP and SP in scalp arteries of patients suffering from chronic migraine
  1. Marina Del Fiacco1,
  2. Marina Quartu1,
  3. Marianna Boi1,
  4. M Pina Serra1,
  5. Tiziana Melis1,
  6. Riccardo Boccaletti2,
  7. Elliot Shevel3,
  8. Carlo Cianchetti4
  1. 1Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Sezione di Citomorfologia, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
  2. 2Divisione Neurochirurgia, Azienda Ospedaliera, Sassari, Italy
  3. 3Headache Clinic, Johannesburg, South Africa
  4. 4Neuropsichiatria Infantile, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Professor Carlo Cianchetti, Neuropsichiatria Infantile, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria, University of Cagliari, Cagliari I-09124, Italy; cianchet{at}


Objective The transient receptor potential vanilloid type-1 receptor (TRPV1) and the neuropeptides calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) and substance P (SP) appear to be differently involved in migraine pain. A role of neurovascular scalp structures is also suggested by several data. We performed a quantitative study of TRPV1-like immunoreactive (LI), CGRP-LI and SP-LI innervation of scalp arterial samples from patients affected with chronic migraine (CM).

Methods Short segments of scalp arteries were collected from 17 participants undergoing vascular surgery for treatment-resistant CM and from 6 controls who underwent neurosurgery for various indications. The immunoreactivity of the arterial innervation to TRPV1, CGRP, SP and to the pan-neuronal marker protein gene product 9.5 (PGP9.5) was examined. Immunoreactive nerve fibres in vessel cross-sections were quantified by computerised image analysis.

Results A significant increase of TRPV1-LI nerve fibres was found in the arterial wall from CM compared with control patients (p<0.05), while no significant difference was found for CGRP and SP.

Conclusions This study yields the first evidence for the existence of a TRPV1-LI innervation in human scalp arteries and provides the first quantitative assessment of the TRPV1-LI, CGRP-LI and SP-LI innervation of those vessels. The increase of TRPV1-LI periarterial nociceptive fibres of scalp arteries may represent, at least in some participants, a structural condition favouring CM (and possibly migraine), for example, by causing a higher sensitivity to algogenic agents.


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