Neuronal-glial interactions are important for normal brain function and contribute to the maintenance of the brain's extracellular environment. Damage to glial cells following traumatic brain injury (TBI) could therefore be an important contributing factor to brain dysfunction and neuronal injury. We examined the early fate of astrocytes and neurons after TBI in rats. A total of 27 rats were euthanized at 0.5, 1, 2, 4, or 24 h after moderate lateral fluid percussion TBI or after sham TBI. Ipsilateral and contralateral hippocampi were examined in coronal sections from -2.12 to -4.80 mm relative to bregma. Adjacent sections were processed with markers for either astrocytes or degenerating neurons. Astrocytes were visualized using glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) or glutamine synthetase immunohistochemistry. Neuronal degeneration was visualized using Fluoro-Jade (FJ) histofluorescence. At 30 min, there was a significant loss of GFAP immunoreactivity in ipsilateral hippocampal CA3 with some loss of normal astrocyte morphology in the remaining cells. The number of normal staining astrocytes decreased progressively over time with extensive astrocyte loss at 24 h. At 4 h, lightly stained FJ-positive neurons were scattered in the ipsilateral CA3. The intensity and number of FJ-positive neurons progressively increased over time with moderate numbers of degenerating neurons in the ipsilateral hippocampal CA3 evident at 24 h. We conclude that astrocyte loss occurs in the hippocampus early after TBI. The data suggest that loss of supporting glial cell may contribute to subsequent neuronal degeneration.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.