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Anat Embryol (Berl). 1986;175(1):101-10.

On the development of the pyramidal tract in the rat. II. An anterograde tracer study of the outgrowth of the corticospinal fibers.


An anterograde tracer study has been made of the developing corticospinal tract (CST) in the rat using wheat germ agglutinin-conjugated horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP). Analysis of normal Rager stained material revealed that corticospinal axons reach upper cervical spinal cord levels at the day of birth (PO). Postnatal rats ranging in age from one (P1) to fourteen (P14) days received multiple WGA-HRP injections into the cortex of their left hemisphere and were allowed to survive for 24 h. The first labeled CST fibers caudally extend into the third thoracic spinal cord segment at P1; into the eighth thoracic segment at P3; into the first or second lumbar segment at P7 and into the second to third sacral segment at Pg. Thus the outgrowth of the leading 'pioneer' fibers of the CST is completed at P9 but later developing axons are continuously added even beyond P9. Quantitative analysis of the amount of label along the length of the outgrowing CST revealed a characteristic pattern of labeling varying with age. The most striking features of that pattern are: the formation of two standing peaks at the level of the cervical and lumbar enlargements respectively and the transient presence of a smaller running peak which moves caudally with the front of the outgrowing bundle. The standing peaks are ascribed to the branching of the axon terminals at both intumescences, whereas the running peak probably arises by the accumulation of tracer within the growth cones at the tips of the outgrowing CST axons. Factors such as the number of axons, the varying axon diameters, the branching collaterals, the presence of varicosities, the transport rate of the tracer, the uptake of the tracer at the injection site, which possibly may affect the amount of label present in both the entire bundle and in the individual axons are discussed. Current research is focused upon an analysis of the relation between the site of injection within the cortex and the pattern of labeling of the CST. A delay of two days was found between the arrival of the CST axons at a particular spinal cord level and their outgrowth into the adjacent spinal gray. However, combined HRP and electronmicroscopic experiments are necessary to determine the factors behind the maturation of the CST as well as the maturation of the spinal gray.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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