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Cell Transplant. 2012;21(9):1837-51. doi: 10.3727/096368911X627426. Epub 2012 Mar 8.

The Lewis GFP transgenic rat strain is a useful cell donor for neural transplantation.

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Laboratory of Molecular Neurosurgery, Department of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, Neurocentre, University Hospital Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.


Stem cell transplantation is a promising therapeutic approach in neurodegenerative diseases. Studying graft survival and development has important implications for the further development of experimental and clinical transplantation protocols. Cellular elements in neural transplants are sometimes difficult to identify. The existing labeling methods cannot reliably provide stably labeled cells that can be detected in long-term experiments. Transgenic (tg) Lewis rats ubiquitously expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) provide an ideal donor source. The aim of this project was to investigate the potential of GFP-tg Lewis rats to serve as donor tissue for neural stem cell transplantation. Ventral mesencephalon (VM) GFP-tg E14.5-derived cells were compared to wild-type (wt) in vitro and in vivo. Firstly, cells from GFP and non-GFP VM tissue were compared with regard to their proliferation and response towards 6-OHDA-toxicity in culture. Secondly, 6-OHDA-lesioned hemiparkinsonian Sprague-Dawley/Crl:CD(SD) rats received intrastriatal grafts derived from VM of E14.5 GFP-tg rats. Due to the fact that donor and recipient belong to two different rat strains, we focused on graft survival in correlation with immunosuppression and graft GFP and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expression. In summary, in vitro tg cells exhibited 98% GFP expression and did not differ from wt cells in any of the measured parameters. In vivo, all experimental groups showed a significant compensation in rotation behavior after transplantation. Furthermore, there was no difference on rotation behavior or graft morphology and survival pattern as well as GFP expression between immunosuppressed and nonimmunosuppressed animals. The GFP-positive population of the graft was composed of 13.3% GFAP-positive, 56.1% NeuN-positive, and 1.9% TH-positive cells. Analysis of graft subpopulations manifested that 70.6% of GFAP-positive, 86.9% of NeuN-positive, and 80.1% of TH-positive cells coexpressed GFP. In conclusion, our data show that the Lewis GFP-tg rats serve as an excellent cell source for studying primary neural precursor cells in the transplantation paradigm.

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