Long distance directed axonal growth from human dopaminergic mesencephalic neuroblasts implanted along the nigrostriatal pathway in 6-hydroxydopamine lesioned adult rats

J Comp Neurol. 1992 Sep 22;323(4):475-94. doi: 10.1002/cne.903230403.


Dissociated ventral mesencephalon of 6 to 8-week-old human embryos were implanted by stereotaxic injection at different sites along the nigrostriatal pathway in adult rats, previously subjected to a 6-hydroxydopamine lesion of the intrinsic mesotelencephalic dopamine pathways. The recipients were immunosuppressed by daily injections of cyclosporin A to prevent rejection. At 13-20 weeks after transplantation, the implanted human neurons and their associated fiber outgrowths were visualized with a species-specific antibody recognizing human, but not rat, intermediary neurofilaments (HNF). From implants placed in the host rostral mesencephalic region, HNF-positive axonal projections were seen to extend in large numbers rostrally along the medial forebrain bundle and the internal capsule, and ramify within the caudate putamen, the ventral striatum and the amygdaloid nuclei (a distance of about 5-6 mm), and more sparsely in the frontal cortex and the olfactory bulb (a distance of about 10 mm). From implants placed in the internal capsule, abundant HNF-positive axons extended in the rostral, but not caudal, direction along the myelinated fiber bundles into the caudate putamen and the ventral striatum. Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunohistochemistry revealed that the vast majority of the rostrally projecting HNF-positive axons were also TH-positive, and that the graft-derived axons gave rise to dense TH-positive terminal networks, above all in large areas of the previously denervated caudate putamen. From control implants of cortical neuroblasts, axonal projections were seen along the medial forebrain bundle and the internal capsule, but the axons were TH-negative and showed only sparse projections to the striatal areas. Instead, dense projections were seen, e.g., in the frontal cortex. The results demonstrate a remarkable ability of human mesencephalic neuroblasts to extend axons along the trajectories of the nigrostriatal and mesolimbocortical pathways to reach and innervate the principal striatal and limbic target areas in the forebrain. This shows that the basic requirements for the formation of long axonal pathways may be present in the adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) at least for certain types of projection neurons. Furthermore, it implies that the developing human neuroblasts can escape the inhibitory features known to be present along myelinated growth trajectories in the adult mammalian brain. In addition, the present approach may offer new possibilities for functional neural grafting in the rat Parkinson model, since transplanted nigral neurons placed in their natural position within the rostral mesencephalon could provide an anatomically and functionally more integrated system than the standard model with ectopically placed intrastriatal nigral grafts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Brain Tissue Transplantation / physiology
  • Corpus Striatum / cytology
  • Corpus Striatum / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Tissue Transplantation / physiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intermediate Filaments / physiology
  • Mesencephalon / cytology
  • Mesencephalon / growth & development
  • Mesencephalon / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Oxidopamine
  • Putamen / cytology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Substantia Nigra / cytology
  • Substantia Nigra / physiology*
  • Sympathectomy, Chemical*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / immunology
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Oxidopamine
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Dopamine