Mild traumatic brain injury to the infant mouse causes robust white matter axonal degeneration which precedes apoptotic death of cortical and thalamic neurons

Dikranian K, Cohen R, Mac Donald C, Pan Y, Brakefield D, Bayly P, Parsadanian A: 2008 Experimental Neurology; Volume 211, Issue 2, Pages 551-560 Read More


The immature brain in the first several years of childhood is very vulnerable to trauma. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) during this critical period often leads to neuropathological and cognitive impairment. Previous experimental studies in rodent models of infant TBI were mostly concentrated on neuronal degeneration, while axonal injury and its relationship to cell death have attracted much less attention. To address this, we developed a closed controlled head injury model in infant (P7) mice and characterized the temporospatial pattern of axonal degeneration and neuronal cell death in the brain following mild injury. Using amyloid precursor protein (APP) as marker of axonal injury we found that mild head trauma causes robust axonal degeneration in the cingulum/external capsule as early as 30 min post-impact. These levels of axonal injury persisted throughout a 24 h period, but significantly declined by 48 h. During the first 24 h injured axons underwent significant and rapid pathomorphological changes. Initial small axonal swellings evolved into larger spheroids and club-like swellings indicating the early disconnection of axons. Ultrastructural analysis revealed compaction of organelles, axolemmal and cytoskeletal defects. Axonal degeneration was followed by profound apoptotic cell death in the posterior cingulate and retrosplenial cortex and anterior thalamus which peaked between 16 and 24 h post-injury. At early stages post-injury no evidence of excitotoxic neuronal death at the impact site was found. At 48 h apoptotic cell death was reduced and paralleled with the reduction in the number of APP-labeled axonal profiles. Our data suggest that early degenerative response to injury in axons of the cingulum and external capsule may cause disconnection between cortical and thalamic neurons, and lead to their delayed apoptotic death.

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Posted on June 6, 2008
Posted in: Axon Injury & Repair, Pilot Projects, Publications Authors: