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J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1996 Mar;55(3):280-9.

Apoptosis and expression of Bcl-2 after compression trauma to rat spinal cord.

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Laboratory of Neuropathology, University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.


We have evaluated by in situ nick-end labeling the presence of apoptotic cells in the spinal cord of rats with compression injury at the level of Th8-9 of mild, moderate, and severe degrees resulting in no neurologic deficit, reversible paraparesis, and paraplegia, respectively. Rats with compression injury surviving 4 or 9 days showed apoptotic glial cells in the longitudinal tracts of the Th8-9, the cranial Th7, and the caudal Th10 segments. The apoptotic cells were most frequently observed in Th7. They did not express glial fibrillar acidic protein (GFAP) and their morphology was compatible with that of oligodendrocytes. Neurons of the gray matter did not present signs of apoptosis. In addition, we studied the immunohistochemical expression of Bcl-2, an endogenous inhibitor of apoptosis. Compression induced Bcl-2 immunoreactivity in axons of the long tracts, particularly after moderate and severe compression and 1-day survival. Neurons of dorsal root ganglia were immunoreactive but the neurons of the spinal cord were unstained. The accumulation, presumably caused by arrested axonal transport in sensory pathways, was absent in rats surviving 9 days. In conclusion, compression trauma to rat spinal cord induces signs of apoptosis in glial cells, presumably oligodendrocytes of the long tracts. This may induce delayed myelin degeneration after trauma to the spinal cord. Bcl-2 does not seem to be upregulated in oligodendrocytes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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