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J Neurocytol. 2003 Feb;32(2):113-22.

Profile of adult rat sensory neuron loss, apoptosis and replacement after sciatic nerve crush.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Pathogenesis, Institute of Neurology, University College London, Queen Square, London, WC1N 3BG, UK.


Following permanent transection of the adult rat sciatic nerve, sensory neuron apoptosis in the contributing L4 and L5 dorsal root ganglia can be observed for at least 6 months afterwards. To establish the profile of any sensory neuron apoptosis and loss over time when axonal regeneration is allowed, serial sections of L4 and L5 ganglia were examined and the neurons counted using a stereological technique 1, 2 and 3 months after crushing the right sciatic nerve at mid-thigh level. Our results show that an identical degree of sensory neuron loss and apoptosis occurs 1 month after crush as at 1 month after permanent transection. However, at 3 months no neurons undergoing apoptosis could be observed and no significant loss could be detected in the ipsilateral ganglia when compared to unoperated controls. One explanation was a neuronal replacement mechanism, which was investigated by administering bromodeoxyuridine to rats for 1 month after sciatic nerve transection or crush, prior to detection using immunohistochemistry on sections of their ganglia after 2 months. The presence of bromodeoxyuridine in the nuclei of occasional cells that would be counted as neurons on the basis of size and morphology indicates that a process of apparent neurogenesis may underlie the profile of sensory neuron loss after axotomy.

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