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Brain Res. 2004 Oct 1;1022(1-2):54-61.

Necrosis, apoptosis and hybrid death in the cortex and thalamus after barrel cortex ischemia in rats.

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Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA.


Focal ischemia in the cerebral cortex results in acute and delayed cell death in the ischemic cortex and non-ischemic thalamus. We examined the hypothesis that neurons in ischemic and non-ischemic regions died from different mechanisms; specifically, we tested whether a mixed form of cell death containing both necrotic and apoptotic changes could be identified in individual cells. Focal barrel cortex ischemia in rats was induced by occlusion of small branches of the middle cerebral artery (MCA) corresponding to the barrel cortex, local blood flow was measured by quantitative autoradiography. Cell death was visualized by 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride (TTC) staining, hematoxylin-eosin (H&E) staining, the terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL), and caspase-3 staining 1 to 10 days after the ischemia. Electron microscopy was used for ultrastructural examination. Cell death occurred in the ipsilateral cortex 24 h after ischemia, followed by selective neuronal death in the ventrobasal (VB) thalamus 3 days later. TUNEL positive neurons were found in these two regions, but with striking morphological differences, designated as type I and type II TUNEL positive cells. The type I TUNEL positive cells in the ischemic cortex underwent necrotic changes. The type II TUNEL positive cells in the thalamus and the cortex penumbra region represented a hybrid death, featured by concurrent apoptotic and necrotic alterations in individual cells, including marked caspase-3 activation, nuclear condensation/fragmentation, but with swollen cytoplasm, damaged organelles and deteriorated membranes. Cell death in the thalamus and the cortex penumbra were attenuated by delayed administration of the caspase inhibitor benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp fluoromethylketone (Z-VAD-FMK). Our data suggest that TUNEL staining should be evaluated with morphological changes, the hybrid death but not typical apoptosis occurs in the penumbra region and non-ischemic thalamus after cerebral ischemia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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