Delayed axonal degeneration in slow Wallerian degeneration mutant mice detected using diffusion tensor imaging

Neuroscience. 2011 Dec 1;197:339-47. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.09.042. Epub 2011 Sep 25.


Previous studies have shown the feasibility of using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) as a noninvasive imaging modality to evaluate neurodegeneration in humans and animals. The axial and radial diffusivities derived from DTI were demonstrated to be sensitive markers for axonal and myelin damage, respectively. This study used DTI to evaluate optic nerve degeneration in wild-type and slow Wallerian degeneration (Wld(S)) mutant mice. Longitudinal DTI was performed on optic nerves following high intraocular pressure-induced transient retinal ischemia. The axial diffusivity of wild-type nerves decreased 30% (P<0.05) at 3 days and 40% (P<0.05) at 5-30 days after transient elevation of intraocular pressure. In contrast, the axial diffusivity of Wld(S) nerves did not change at 3 days; decreased by 20% (P<0.05) at 5 days, and continued to decrease by 30% (P<0.05) at 15 days and 40% (P<0.05) at 30 days after transient intraocular pressure elevation, suggesting delayed axonal damage in Wld(S) mice. Radial diffusivity increased 200% (P<0.05) at 15-30 days in the wild-type mice and 100% (P<0.05) at 30 days in the Wld(S) mice after transient intraocular pressure elevation, suggesting delayed myelin damage in Wld(S) mice. DTI detected damage was confirmed with immunohistochemistry using phosphorylated neurofilament and myelin basic protein for assessing axonal and myelin integrity, respectively. These findings support the use of DTI not only to evaluate the progression of neurodegeneration but also to noninvasively demonstrate Wld(S) mutation to delay the Wallerian degeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / pathology*
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging*
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Optic Nerve / pathology
  • Wallerian Degeneration / pathology*