Dorsal root ganglia isolation and primary culture to study neurotransmitter release

Ya Tin Lin, Jin Chung Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Dorsal root ganglia (DRG) contain cell bodies of sensory neurons. This type of neuron is pseudo-unipolar, with two axons that innervate peripheral tissues, such as skin, muscle and visceral organs, as well as the spinal dorsal horn of the central nervous system. Sensory neurons transmit somatic sensation, including touch, pain, thermal, and proprioceptive sensations. Therefore, DRG primary cultures are widely used to study the cellular mechanisms of nociception, physiological functions of sensory neurons, and neural development. The cultured neurons can be applied in studies involving electrophysiology, signal transduction, neurotransmitter release, or calcium imaging. With DRG primary cultures, scientists may culture dissociated DRG neurons to monitor biochemical changes in single or multiple cells, overcoming many of the limitations associated with in vivo experiments. Compared to commercially available DRG-hybridoma cell lines or immortalized DRG neuronal cell lines, the composition and properties of the primary cells are much more similar to sensory neurons in tissue. However, due to the limited number of cultured DRG primary cells that can be isolated from a single animal, it is difficult to perform high-throughput screens for drug targeting studies. In the current article, procedures for DRG collection and culture are described. In addition, we demonstrate the treatment of cultured DRG cells with an agonist of neuropeptide FF receptor type 2 (NPFFR2) to induce the release of peptide neurotransmitters (calcitonin gene-related peptide (CRGP) and substance P (SP)).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere57569
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number140
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • CGRP
  • Dorsal root ganglia
  • DRG
  • Issue 140
  • Neuronal cultures
  • Neurotransmitter
  • Nociception
  • Pain
  • Pain transmission
  • Primary culture
  • Sensory neuron
  • Substance P
  • This Month in JoVE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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