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Exp Neurol. 2002 Mar;174(1):72-80.

Biotinylated dextran amine as a marker for fetal hypothalamic homografts and their efferents.

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Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology, and Anatomy, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio 45267-0521, USA.


We have explored the use of biotinylated dextran amine (BDA) as a marker for labeling fetal brain grafts and their connections with the host. As a model system we used transplantation of the hamster suprachiasmatic nucleus, the site of an endogenous biological clock governing circadian rhythms. Similar transplants into arrhythmic hosts have been shown to restore behavioral function with a period specific to the donor. For locomotor rhythms, efferent connections are not necessary. For other responses, including endocrine rhythms, efferent connections may be necessary. In order to visualize homografts and their efferents, injections of BDA, an anterograde tracer, were made into the anterior hypothalamic (AH) region containing the SCN or into the dorsal cortex (CTX) of fetal hamster brains. The fetal AH or CTX was microdissected out and stereotaxically implanted into the third ventricle of intact, adult hamsters. After 2, 4, 8, or 12 weeks, hosts were sacrificed and their brains were processed for detection of BDA by either histochemistry or immunofluorescence. BDA intensely labeled graft neurons, their dendrites, and axons with minimal or no spread to the adjacent host brain. Labeled graft axons could be followed for long distances (>1 mm) into the host brain and graft-derived varicosities formed close contacts with host neurons. BDA-labeled graft neurons, located at the perimeter of the graft, also extended dendrite-like processes into the host parenchyma. We conclude that BDA is a useful marker for fetal homografts and their efferents for survival times of less than 2 months.

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