Coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy, which allows vibrational imaging of myelin sheath in its natural state, was applied to characterize lysophosphatidylcholine (lyso-PtdCho)-induced myelin degradation in tissues and in vivo. After the injection of lyso-PtdCho into ex vivo spinal tissues or in vivo mouse sciatic nerves, myelin swelling characterized by the decrease of CARS intensity and loss of excitation polarization dependence was extensively observed. The swelling corresponds to myelin vesiculation and splitting observed by electron microscopy. The demyelination dynamics were quantified by the increase of g ratio measured from the CARS images. Treating spinal tissues with Ca2+ ionophore A23187 resulted in the same kind of myelin degradation as lyso-PtdCho. Moreover, the demyelination lesion size was significantly reduced upon preincubation of the spinal tissue with Ca2+ free Krebs' solution or a cytosolic phospholipase A2 (cPLA(2)) inhibitor or a calpain inhibitor. In accordance with the imaging results, removal of Ca2+ or addition of cPLA(2) inhibitor or calpain inhibitor in the Krebs' solution remarkably increased the mean compound action potential amplitude in lyso-PtdCho treated spinal tissues. Our results suggest that lyso-PtdCho induces myelin degradation via Ca(2+) influx into myelin and subsequent activation of cPLA(2) and calpain, which break down the myelin lipids and proteins. The current work also shows that CARS microscopy is a potentially powerful tool for the study of demyelination.
2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.