A Novel Approach for Studying the Physiology and Pathophysiology of Myelinated and Non-Myelinated Axons in the CNS White Matter

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 9;11(11):e0165637. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165637. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

Advances in brain connectomics set the need for detailed knowledge of functional properties of myelinated and non-myelinated (if present) axons in specific white matter pathways. The corpus callosum (CC), a major white matter structure interconnecting brain hemispheres, is extensively used for studying CNS axonal function. Unlike another widely used CNS white matter preparation, the optic nerve where all axons are myelinated, the CC contains also a large population of non-myelinated axons, making it particularly useful for studying both types of axons. Electrophysiological studies of optic nerve use suction electrodes on nerve ends to stimulate and record compound action potentials (CAPs) that adequately represent its axonal population, whereas CC studies use microelectrodes (MEs), recording from a limited area within the CC. Here we introduce a novel robust isolated "whole" CC preparation comparable to optic nerve. Unlike ME recordings where the CC CAP peaks representing myelinated and non-myelinated axons vary broadly in size, "whole" CC CAPs show stable reproducible ratios of these two main peaks, and also reveal a third peak, suggesting a distinct group of smaller caliber non-myelinated axons. We provide detailed characterization of "whole" CC CAPs and conduction velocities of myelinated and non-myelinated axons along the rostro-caudal axis of CC body and show advantages of this preparation for comparing axonal function in wild type and dysmyelinated shiverer mice, studying the effects of temperature dependence, bath-applied drugs and ischemia modeled by oxygen-glucose deprivation. Due to the isolation from gray matter, our approach allows for studying CC axonal function without possible "contamination" by reverberating signals from gray matter. Our analysis of "whole" CC CAPs revealed higher complexity of myelinated and non-myelinated axonal populations, not noticed earlier. This preparation may have a broad range of applications as a robust model for studying myelinated and non-myelinated axons of the CNS in various experimental models.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Corpus Callosum / physiology
  • Corpus Callosum / physiopathology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / genetics
  • Demyelinating Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microelectrodes
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / pathology*
  • Optic Nerve / physiology
  • Optic Nerve / physiopathology
  • Temperature
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • White Matter / physiology
  • White Matter / physiopathology*

Grant support

No specific funding was received for this work but Michael G. Fehlings is supported by the Ontario Brain Institute, NeuroDevNet Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence, Halbert Chair in Neural Repair and Regeneration and the DeZwirek Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.