Ventral root avulsion in the rat leads to a retrograde response, with activation of glia and up-regulation of immunologic cell surface molecules such as major histocompatibility complex (MHC) antigens, and the subsequent degeneration of a large proportion of the lesioned motoneurons. Herein, we examined several inbred congenic rat strains previously known to react differently to experimentally induced autoimmune diseases and demonstrate a substantial genetic diversity in the regulation of glial activation and neuron death in this injury model. The panel of examined inbred rat strains included DA(RT1AV1), PVG.1AV1, LEW.1AV1, LEW.1N, BN(RT1N) and E3(RT1U), and the following parameters were determined: (1) MHC class II expression on glia; (2) expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein, C3 complement, and microglial response factor-1 mRNAs in glia; (3) levels of the tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1beta cytokine mRNAs; (4) degree of motoneuron loss. The findings of considerable strain-dependent differences in all parameters studied demonstrate important polymorphisms in the genetic regulation of these events. Furthermore, some of the studied features segregated from each other, suggesting independent regulatory mechanisms. Genes outside of the MHC complex are mainly implicated as being of importance for the phenotypic differences, as significant differences were recorded between the MHC congenic strains differing in the non-MHC genes but not vice versa. These results contribute new important insights into the genetic regulation of glial reactivity and neuron death after mechanical nerve injuries. In addition, the finding of conspicuous strain-dependent differences makes it necessary to consider the genetic background when designing and interpreting animal experiments involving noxious insults to the central nervous system resulting in glial activation and nerve cell loss.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.