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J Neurosci. 1999 Nov 15;19(22):9953-63.

Entorhinal cortex lesion in adult rats induces the expression of the neuronal chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan neurocan in reactive astrocytes.

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Institute of Anatomy, University of Freiburg, D-79001 Freiburg, Germany.


The chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan neurocan is a major component of brain extracellular matrix during development. Neurocan is primarily synthesized by neurons and has the ability to interact with cell adhesion molecules involved in the regulation of cell migration and axonal growth. Within the first weeks postnatally, neurocan expression is strongly downregulated. To test whether neurocan is reexpressed in areas of axonal growth (sprouting) after brain injury, the time course of neurocan expression was analyzed in the denervated fascia dentata of the rat after entorhinal cortex lesion (12 hr; 1, 2, 4, and 10 d; 2 and 4 weeks; and 6 months after lesion). In the denervated zone, immunohistochemistry revealed neurocan-positive astrocytes by 2 d after lesion and a diffuse labeling of the extracellular matrix at all later time points. Electron microscopy confirmed the deposition of neurocan in the extracellular matrix compartment. In situ hybridization demonstrated a strong upregulation of neurocan mRNA within the denervated outer molecular layer 1 and 4 d after lesion. The combination of in situ hybridization with immunohistochemistry for glial fibrillary acidic protein demonstrated that the neurocan mRNA-expressing cells are astrocytes. These data demonstrate that neurocan is reexpressed in the injured brain. In contrast to the situation during development, astrocytes, but not neurons, express neurocan and enrich the extracellular matrix with this molecule. Similar to the situation during development, neurocan is expressed in an area of active axon growth, and it is suggested that neurocan acts to maintain the boundaries of the denervated fascia dentata after entorhinal cortex lesion.

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