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Neuroscience. 2004;126(2):365-74.

Spontaneous regeneration of the corticospinal tract after transection in young rats: a key role of reactive astrocytes in making favorable and unfavorable conditions for regeneration.

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Department of Integrative Brain Science, Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University, Yoshida-Konoe, Sakyo, Kyoto 606-8501, Japan.


We demonstrated the occurrence of marked regeneration of the corticospinal tract (CST) after a single transection and failure of regeneration after a repeated transection in young rats. To provide convincing evidence for the complete transection and regeneration we used retrograde neuronal double labeling. Double-labeled neurons that took up the first tracer from the transection site and the second tracer from the injection site caudal to the transection site were observed in the sensorimotor cortex. The anterograde tracing method revealed various patterns of regeneration. In the most successful cases the vast majority of regenerated fibers descended in the normal tract and terminated normally whereas a trace amount of fibers coursed aberrantly. In the less successful cases fibers descended partly normally and partly aberrantly or totally aberrantly. To clarify the role of astrocytes in determining the success or failure of regeneration we compared expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), vimentin and neurofilament (NF) immunoreactivity (IR) in the lesion between single and repeated transections. In either transection, astrocytes disappeared from the CST near the lesion site as early as 3 h after lesioning. However, by 24 h after a single transection, immature astrocytes coexpressing GFAP- and vimentin-IR appeared in the former astrocyte-free area and NF-positive axons crossed the lesion. By contrast, after a repeated transection the astrocyte-free area spread and NF-positive axons never crossed the lesion. It appears likely that the major sign, and possibly cause of failure of regeneration is the prolonged disappearance of astrocytes in the lesioned tract area.

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