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Brain Res. 1996 Apr 9;715(1-2):32-43.

Perineuronal microglial reactivity following proximal and distal axotomy of rat rubrospinal neurons.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, ROC.


Microglial reactivity in the red nucleus of rats was studied following upper cervical and lower thoracic rubrospinal tractotomy using the lectin binding method. Following axotomy, the contralateral nucleus containing the axotomized neurons was identified using the retrograde tracer Fast blue. It was subdivided into dorsomedial (DM) and ventrolateral (VL) portions known to project to the cervical and lumbar spinal cord, respectively. Lectin-labeled microglial cells and processes on the contralateral as well as in the ipsilateral nucleus were then quantified. An early and a late increase in microglial reactivity was observed in the nucleus at 2-5 days and 2-8 weeks following thoracic and cervical tractotomy with the latter producing a more pronounced reactivity. In rats subjected to thoracic axotomy, a similar microglial increase also occurred in the intact contralateral DM nuclear area suggesting the possible action of diffusable factor(s) that might have triggered the microglial activation from the axotomized VL nuclear area. The uninjured ipsilateral nucleus also exhibited a similar pattern of microglial reactivity irrespective of the number of ipsilaterally projecting neurons following both cervical and thoracic axotomy. This could have been elicited by the retrograde influence from the denervated targets carried by the intact rubrospinal fibers of the opposite side since many of them in fact terminate bilaterally (Antal, M. et al., J. Comp. Neurol., 325 (1992) 22-37). In all the axotomized or intact nucleus, microglial processes did not appear to surround neuronal cell bodies. The characteristic responses of microglial cells in the red nucleus may be related to the failure of rubrospinal neurons to regenerate following the severance of their axons.

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