, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 218-233

Axotomy induces intranuclear immunolocalization of neuron-specific enolase in facial and hypoglossal neurons of the rat

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Neuron-specific enolase as an enzyme of the glycolytic pathway is localized in the cytoplasm of nerve cells, but not in the cell nucleus. We have applied immunocytochemistry with 1∶64 000 polyclonal anti-rat neuron-specific enolase to the brainstem of male and female adult Wistar rats following: (a) transection of the facial nerve with immediate microsurgical nerve suture (facial-facial anastomosis), (b) transection of the hypoglossal nerve with immediate suture (hypoglossal-hypoglossal anastomosis) and (c) transection of the facial and hypoglossal nerve with immediate suture of the proximal hypoglossal to the distal facial nerve stump (hypoglossal-facial anastomosis). Studying the intracellular immunolocalization of neuron-specific enolase in neurons of the facial and hypoglossal nucleus we detected that (1) in normal rats about 20% of all facial and hypoglossal neurons display not only cytoplasmic, but also intranuclear neuron-specific enolase-like immunoreactivity and (2) following any axotomy of the facial or hypoglossal peripheral nerve, the perikarya of all injured motoneurons react by an outstanding increase of neuron-specific enolase-like immunoreactivity in the karyoplasm. Similar findings were obtained in experiments on non-fixed cultured Neuro-2a cells that had been lesioned with hydrogen peroxide. Counting the absolute numbers of normal and reactive neurons at 1–365 days post axotomy revealed that the increase of neuron-specific enolase in neuronal cell nuclei is temporary and reversible. It is first detected at 2 days post axotomy, reaches its maximum at 10–18 days post axotomy and is no longer evident 56 days following surgery. These findings suggest that the intranuclear neuron-specific enolase-like immunoreactive material may serve a regulatory function on the genome.