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Transneuronal degeneration in the midbrain central gray following chemical lesions in the ventromedial nucleus: A qualitative and quantitative analysis

Authors
Journal
Neuroscience
0306-4522
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
38
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/0306-4522(90)90038-6
Disciplines
  • Chemistry

Abstract

Abstract In the preceding experiments with electrolytic lesions of the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, we showed pre- and postsynaptic degeneration in the midbrain central gray of the rat. The postsynaptic degeneration seen may indicate a transneuronal effect of the ventromedial nucleus on the midbrain central gray. Electrolytic lesions, however, destroy afferent endings and fibers in passage, so that the postsynaptic degeneration seen in the midbrain central gray may be due to retrograde degeneration of midbrain central gray afferents to the ventromedial nucleus or due to degeneration of fibers in passage. In order to distinguish among these possibilities, chemical, i.e. kainic acid and N-methyl aspartate, lesions were made in the ventromedial nucleus and the ultrastructure of the midbrain central gray and cerebral cortex was examined at various intervals following the lesions. Both of these excitotoxins have been shown to destroy neurons, sparing afferent terminals and fibers in passage. Animals receiving kainic acid lesions in the right ventromedial nucleus were allowed to survive for one week, and animals receiving N-methyl aspartate lesions in the right ventromedial nucleus were permitted to survive for four, eight, and 20 days. Midbrain central gray tissue of unlesioned animals served as a control for both kainic acid and N-methyl aspartate lesions. In addition, other control animals received injections of the same amount of N-methyl aspartate in the right parietal cortex and were permitted to survive for four and eight days. For each of the above injection and survival conditions, the left cortex and subdivisions of the midbrain central gray were removed and processed for electron microscopy. Animals receiving ventromedial hypothalamic lesions with both kainic acid and N-methyl aspartate showed signs of pre- and postsynaptic degeneration. A quantitative analysis (General Linear Model Procedure) of degeneration was performed on the cortex and midbrain central gray of animals receiving N-methyl aspartate lesions in the ventromedial nucleus and cortex, and several parameters were measured. Animals receiving ventromedial hypothalamic lesions and surviving for eight and 20 days show significantly higher ratios of degenerating presynaptic elements to total presynaptic elements, degenerating postsynaptic elements to total postsynaptic elements, and degenerating total elements to total elements, in the midbrain central gray than in the cortex. Furthermore, the ratio of degenerating postsynaptic elements to total postsynaptic elements is larger than the other ratios. The effect of the selective destruction of ventromedial nucleus neurons, therefore, resulted in specific degeneration in the midbrain central gray but not in the cortex after eight and 20 days. The postsynaptic degeneration seen in the midbrain central gray after ventromedial hypothalamic lesions is due, therefore, to transneuronal degeneration, rather than retrograde degeneration of midbrain central gray afferents. These results suggest that ventromedial nucleus neurons which project to the midbrain central gray may be important in maintaining the integrity of some neurons in that region.

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