Reorganization of descending motor tracts in the rat spinal cord

Eur J Neurosci. 2002 Nov;16(9):1761-71. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2002.02243.x.


Following lesion of the central nervous system (CNS), reinnervation of denervated areas may occur via two distinct processes: regeneration of the lesioned fibres or/and sprouting from adjacent intact fibres into the deafferented zone. Both regeneration and axonal sprouting are very limited in the fully mature CNS of higher vertebrates, but can be enhanced by neutralizing the neurite outgrowth inhibitory protein Nogo-A. This study takes advantage of the distinct spinal projection pattern of two descending tracts, the corticospinal tract (CST) and the rubrospinal tract (RST), to investigate if re-innervation of denervated targets can occur by sprouting of anatomically separate, undamaged tracts in the adult rat spinal cord. The CST was transected bilaterally at its entry into the pyramidal decussation. Anatomical studies of the RST in IN-1 antibody-treated rats showed a reorganization of the RST projection pattern after neutralization of the myelin associated neurite growth inhibitor Nogo-A. The terminal arborizations of the rubrospinal fibres, which are normally restricted to the intermediate layers of the spinal cord, invaded the ventral horn but not the dorsal horn of the cervical spinal cord. Moreover, new close appositions were observed, in the ventral horn, onto motoneurons normally receiving CST projections. Red nucleus microstimulation experiments confirmed the reorganization of the RST system. These observations indicate that mature descending motor tracts are capable of significant intraspinal reorganization following lesion and suggests the expression of cues guiding and/or stabilizing newly formed sprouts in the adult, denervated spinal cord.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Efferent Pathways / drug effects
  • Efferent Pathways / metabolism
  • Efferent Pathways / pathology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Forelimb / innervation
  • Forelimb / physiopathology
  • Growth Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Myelin Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Nerve Regeneration / drug effects
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nogo Proteins
  • Pyramidal Tracts / drug effects
  • Pyramidal Tracts / metabolism
  • Pyramidal Tracts / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Red Nucleus / drug effects
  • Red Nucleus / metabolism
  • Red Nucleus / pathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries


  • Growth Inhibitors
  • Myelin Proteins
  • Nogo Proteins
  • Rtn4 protein, rat