Mechanical Stretch of High Magnitude Provokes Axonal Injury, Elongation of Paranodal Junctions, and Signaling Alterations in Oligodendrocytes

Mol Neurobiol. 2019 Jun;56(6):4231-4248. doi: 10.1007/s12035-018-1372-6. Epub 2018 Oct 8.


Increasing findings suggest that demyelination may play an important role in the pathophysiology of brain injury, but the exact mechanisms underlying such damage are not well known. Mechanical tensile strain of brain tissue occurs during traumatic brain injury. Several studies have investigated the cellular and molecular events following a static tensile strain of physiological magnitude on individual cells such as oligodendrocytes. However, the pathobiological impact of high-magnitude mechanical strain on oligodendrocytes and myelinated fibers remains under investigated. In this study, we reported that an applied mechanical tensile strain of 30% on mouse organotypic culture of cerebellar slices induced axonal injury and elongation of paranodal junctions, two hallmarks of brain trauma. It was also able to activate MAPK-ERK1/2 signaling, a stretch-induced responsive pathway. The same tensile strain applied to mouse oligodendrocytes in primary culture induced a profound damage to cell morphology, partial cell loss, and a decrease of myelin protein expression. The lower tensile strain of 20% also caused cell loss and the remaining oligodendrocytes appeared retracted with decreased myelin protein expression. Finally, high-magnitude tensile strain applied to 158N oligodendroglial cells altered myelin protein expression, dampened MAPK-ERK1/2 and MAPK-p38 signaling, and enhanced the production of reactive oxygen species. The latter was accompanied by increased protein oxidation and an alteration of anti-oxidant defense that was strain magnitude-dependent. In conclusion, mechanical stretch of high magnitude provokes axonal injury with significant alterations in oligodendrocyte biology that could initiate demyelination.

Keywords: Cerebellum; Mechanostimulation; Myelin; Oligodendrocytes; Stretch-induced injury; Tensile strain; Traumatic brain injury; White matter injury.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Axons / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Shape
  • Cerebellum / pathology
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myelin Proteins / genetics
  • Myelin Proteins / metabolism
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • Oligodendroglia / pathology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Tensile Strength


  • Antioxidants
  • Myelin Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Glutathione