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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2001 Jul;60(7):676-85.

Bone marrow chimeric rats reveal the unique distribution of resident and recruited macrophages in the contused rat spinal cord.

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Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medica Genetics, The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, Columbus, USA.


Brain and spinal cord inflammation that develops after traumatic injury is believed to differentially influence the structural and/or physiological integrity of surviving neurons and glia. It is possible that the functional dichotomy of CNS inflammation results from the activity of a heterogeneous macrophage population elicited by trauma. Indeed, unique functions have been attributed to macrophages derived from resident microglia versus those originating from infiltrating monocytes. Thus, whether progressive tissue injury or repair is favored could be explained by the disproportionate contributions of one macrophage subset relative to the other. Descriptive neuroanatomical studies are a reasonable first approach to revealing a relationship between microglia, recruited blood monocytes/macrophages, and regions of tissue degeneration and/or repair. Unfortunately, it is not possible to differentiate between CNS macrophage subsets using conventional immunohistochemical approaches. In the present study, we have used radiation bone marrow chimeric rats to definitively characterize the macrophage reaction elicited by experimental spinal contusion injury. In chimeric animals, antibodies raised against unique cell surface molecules expressed on bone marrow-derived cells (BMCs) were used to distinguish infiltrating BMCs from resident microglial-derived macrophages. Our findings indicate that the onset and plateau of macrophage activation (previously shown to be 3 and 7 days postinjury, respectively) is dominated initially by microglial-derived macrophages and then is supplanted by hematogenous cells. While resident macrophages are ubiquitously distributed throughout the injury site, leukocyte-derived monocytes exclusively infiltrate the gray matter and to a lesser extent subpial white matter. Generally, monocyte foci in white matter remain associated with the lumen or abluminal surface of blood vessels, i.e. few cells actually infiltrate the parenchyma. If functional differences exist between CNS macrophage subsets, differences in the time-dependent accumulation and distribution of these cell types could differentially influence the survival of surrounding neurons and glia.

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