Axon loss determines persistent disability in multiple sclerosis patients. Here, we use in vivo calcium imaging in a multiple sclerosis model to show that cytoplasmic calcium levels determine the choice between axon loss and survival. We rule out the endoplasmic reticulum, glutamate excitotoxicity, and the reversal of the sodium-calcium exchanger as sources of intra-axonal calcium accumulation and instead identify nanoscale ruptures of the axonal plasma membrane as the critical path of calcium entry.
Keywords: axon degeneration; calcium imaging; experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis; in vivo microscopy; multiple sclerosis; plasma membrane.
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