Trajectory of redirected corticospinal axons after unilateral lesion of the sensorimotor cortex in neonatal rat; a phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L) tracing study

Exp Neurol. 1991 Oct;114(1):53-65. doi: 10.1016/0014-4886(91)90084-p.


The corticospinal neurons of the rat project almost exclusively to the contralateral spinal cord. Retrograde and anterograde tracing experiments showed that only about 2-4% of the corticospinal neurons of the sensorimotor cortex project to the ipsilateral spinal cord in the normal rat. The large majority of corticospinal axons (more than 90%) travel at spinal level at the base of the contralateral dorsal funiculus; in addition a few axons run in the contralateral lateral funiculus and at the base of the dorsal horn. The undecussated axons run in the ipsilateral dorsal (about 1-2%) and ventral (about 1-2%) funiculi. The rearrangement of the corticospinal projections was studied with various tracing methods in rats subjected to unilateral lesion of the sensorimotor cortex at Postnatal Day 2 to 4. Spinal injections of the tracer WGA-HRP that were restricted to the side opposite to the cortical lesion showed a significant increase of retrogradely labeled corticospinal neurons in the intact cortex as compared to the proportion of ipsilateral projections in control experiments. This was consistent with an increased density of anterogradely labeled corticospinal terminals in the spinal cord ipsilateral to an injection of WGA-HRP in the motor cortex opposite to neonatal lesion, in comparison to normal rats. The trajectory of these "aberrant" ipsilateral corticospinal projections resulting from the neonatal lesion of the opposite sensorimotor cortex was analyzed by means of the anterograde tracer phaseolus vulgaris-leucoagglutinin (PHA-L), injected in the motor cortex. These data indicated that decussated corticospinal axons recross at spinal levels, close to their terminal zone, where they appear to ramify and terminate in the spinal gray including the motoneurons. Such recrossing axons thus represent one new possible mechanism, among other previously reported ones, contributing to the increase of ipsilateral corticospinal projections in rats subjected to neonatal cortical lesion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Horseradish Peroxidase
  • Injections
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / ultrastructure
  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / ultrastructure
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins


  • Phytohemagglutinins
  • Wheat Germ Agglutinins
  • leukoagglutinins, plants
  • Horseradish Peroxidase