The importance of the nociceptive nervous system for maintaining tissue homeostasis has been known for some time, and it has also been suggested that organogenesis and tissue repair are under neuronal control. Changes in peripheral joint innervation are supposed to be partly responsible for degenerative alterations in joint tissues which contribute to development of osteoarthritis. Various resident cell types of the musculoskeletal system express receptors for sensory and sympathetic neurotransmitters, allowing response to peripheral neuronal stimuli. Among them are mesenchymal stem cells, synovial fibroblasts, bone cells and chondrocytes of different origin, which express distinct subtypes of adrenoceptors (AR), receptors for vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Some of these cell types synthesize and secrete neuropeptides such as SP, and they are positive for tyrosine-hydroxylase (TH), the rate limiting enzyme for biosynthesis of catecholamines. Sensory and sympathetic neurotransmitters are involved in the pathology of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which manifests mainly in the joints. In addition, they seem to play a role in pathogenesis of priori degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis (OA). Altogether it is evident that sensory and sympathetic neurotransmitters have crucial trophic effects which are critical for joint tissue and bone homeostasis. They modulate articular cartilage, subchondral bone and synovial tissue properties in physiological and pathophysiological conditions, in addition to their classical neurological features.
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