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Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 1992 Jun;18(3):265-81.

Dying back type axonal degeneration of sensory nerve terminals in muscle spindles of the gracile axonal dystrophy (GAD) mutant mouse.

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Division of Degenerative Disease, National Institute of Neuroscience, NCNP, Tokyo, Japan.


A disorder of the gracile axonal dystrophy (GAD) mutant mouse is characterized by a neuromuscular disease with sensory ataxia (detectable 30 days after birth) and paresis of the hindlimbs (detectable at 80 days). In the sensory ataxia stage, histological study of the primary sensory system shows that, in addition to the lesions in the central nervous system, peripherally projecting axons have also started to degenerate at their distal ends in muscle spindles. Although the structure of Ia fibre endings appear normal until 15 days after birth, initial changes in the annulo-spiral structure are detected around the 20th day by a degeneration of the terminal axons. Degeneration then progressed proximally and the secondary endings also start to degenerate. Neuron cell bodies located in the dorsal root ganglia are morphologically intact until the later stages. Chronological studies indicate that, although axonal degeneration progresses throughout life, it is accentuated during the rapid somatic growth period. Around 50 days of age, transient regeneration takes place at axonal endings when somatic growth has attained a plateau. Such primary sensory endings tend to be restored by fine, multiple axons which gain access to the intrafusal fibres through the original endoneurial tubes. Ultrastructural observations at the fully affected stage show intrafusal muscle fibres lying scattered within spindles due to loss of the fine network of inner capsule layers and an almost complete loss of sensory endings from the surface of intrafusal muscle fibres. These results indicate that this mutant mouse is a useful model for naturally occurring 'dying back' type axonal degeneration or 'central and peripheral distal axonopathies', and would provide significant information about the complete evolution of the pathological processes involved.

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