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J Comp Neurol. 1998 Aug 17;398(1):83-97.

Regeneration of supraspinal axons after transection of the thoracic spinal cord in the developing opossum, Didelphis virginiana.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology, and Anatomy, The Ohio State University, College of Medicine, Columbus 43210, USA.


When the thoracic spinal cord of the North American opossum is transected early in development, supraspinal axons grow through the lesion. In the experiments reported here, we asked whether regeneration of cut axons contributes to such growth. Fast Blue (FB) was injected into the lumbar cord on postnatal day (PD)5, 8, 15, or 20. Five days later, FB was removed by gentle suction, and the spinal cord was transected at thoracic levels. Fourteen days later, rhodamine B dextran was injected between the site of the FB injection and the lesion. The pups were maintained for an additional 7-10 days before killing and perfusion. We assumed that supraspinal neurons that contained FB survived axotomy and those that contained both FB and rhodamine B dextran supported regenerating axons. In the PD5 group (lesioned at PD10), regenerative growth was documented for axons originating in all of the supraspinal nuclei that innervate the lumbar cord by PD10. When the injections were made at the later ages, however, neurons that supported regenerative growth were fewer in number and regionally restricted. In some cases, they were limited primarily to the red nucleus, the medullary raphe, and the adjacent reticular formation. Our results show that regeneration of cut axons contributes to growth of supraspinal axons through the lesion after transection of the thoracic cord in developing opossums and that the critical period for regenerative growth is not the same for all axons.

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