, Volume 245, Issue 12, pp 781-793

Histological investigation of spinal cord lesions in the spinal hyperostotic mouse (twy/twy): morphological changes in anterior horn cells and immunoreactivity to neurotropic factors

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We examined the morphology of spinal accessory motoneurons and immunoreactivity to neurotrophins, brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin (NT)-3, as well as the presence of reactive astrocytosis in 70 tiptoe walking Yoshimura (twy) mice that develop calcification at C1-C2 vertebral level compressing the spinal cord. At the level of compression, the area of neuronal soma and total length of dendrites of wheat germ agglutinin-horseradish peroxidase (WGA-HRP)-labelled accessory motoneurons in the medial cell pool decreased significantly with decrement in motoneuron population, relative to the control. In contrast, at sites rostral to the compressive lesion, a significant enlargement of the neuron soma and dendritic elongation were noted, associated with increased motoneuron population and decreased transverse area of the cord at the level of compression. At this site, enhanced BDNF and NT-3 immunoreactivities were evident in the anterior horn cells. In mice with a more severe degree of compression, astrocyte-like cells showing BDNF immunoreactivity became abundant and axons in the anterior column demonstrated a marked NT-3 immunoreactivity. Our results suggest increased functional activity of anterior horn cells at levels rostral to the site of compression. We speculate that the presence of BDNF and NT-3 in neurons and astrocyte-like cells is proportionate to the severity of chronic mechanical compression and may contribute to the heterotropic neuronal reserve and survival.

Received: 18 August 1997Æ’Received in revised form: 17 February 1998Æ’Accepted: 6 March 1998