Diffuse Axonal Injury in the Rat Brain: Axonal Injury and Oligodendrocyte Activity Following Rotational Injury

Brain Sci. 2020 Apr 10;10(4):229. doi: 10.3390/brainsci10040229.


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) commonly results in primary diffuse axonal injury (DAI) and associated secondary injuries that evolve through a cascade of pathological mechanisms. We aim at assessing how myelin and oligodendrocytes react to head angular-acceleration-induced TBI in a previously described model. This model induces axonal injuries visible by amyloid precursor protein (APP) expression, predominantly in the corpus callosum and its borders. Brain tissue from a total of 27 adult rats was collected at 24 h, 72 h and 7 d post-injury. Coronal sections were prepared for immunohistochemistry and RNAscope® to investigate DAI and myelin changes (APP, MBP, Rip), oligodendrocyte lineage cell loss (Olig2), oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) (NG2, PDGFRa) and neuronal stress (HSP70, ATF3). Oligodendrocytes and OPCs numbers (expressed as percentage of positive cells out of total number of cells) were measured in areas with high APP expression. Results showed non-statistically significant trends with a decrease in oligodendrocyte lineage cells and an increase in OPCs. Levels of myelination were mostly unaltered, although Rip expression differed significantly between sham and injured animals in the frontal brain. Neuronal stress markers were induced at the dorsal cortex and habenular nuclei. We conclude that rotational injury induces DAI and neuronal stress in specific areas. We noticed indications of oligodendrocyte death and regeneration without statistically significant changes at the timepoints measured, despite indications of axonal injuries and neuronal stress. This might suggest that oligodendrocytes are robust enough to withstand this kind of trauma, knowledge important for the understanding of thresholds for cell injury and post-traumatic recovery potential.

Keywords: diffuse axonal injury; myelin degradation; olig2; oligodendrocyte progenitor cell; traumatic brain injury.