Extension and regeneration of corticospinal axons after early spinal injury and the maintenance of corticospinal topography

Exp Neurol. 1993 Sep;123(1):106-17. doi: 10.1006/exnr.1993.1144.


It has been established that neonatal corticospinal (CS) axons are able to grow around lesions of the spinal cord early in neonacy (Bernstein and Stelzner, J. Comp. Neurol. 221:382-400; Firkins, Bates, and Stelzner, Exp. Neurol., 120:1-15). To determine if these corticospinal axons include regenerating as well as late developing axons a double-labeling paradigm is used in which CS neurons are retrogradely labeled from the cervical spinal cord by injections of fast blue (FB) on Postnatal Day (PND) 2, 4, or 10. Two days later, the FB is aspirated along with the left dorsal funiculus and the right hemicord (CHR). As adults, the animals receive an injection of diamidino yellow (DY) or rhodamine into the spinal cord caudal to the lesion site. Thus, FB neurons are those that originally projected to the spinal cord before the lesion and which survived axotomy, DY neurons are those whose axons reached the spinal cord after the lesion, and double-labeled neurons (FB/DY) are cells which projected to the spinal cord prior to the lesion and regenerated a spinal axon postlesion. Animals FB injected on PND 2 have a widespread distribution of FB-labeled neurons in cortex, including areas outside of sensorimotor cortex. These animals also had both DY- and FB/DY-labeled cells within sensorimotor cortex, indicating that the population of axons growing caudal to neonatal spinal lesions consists of both late growing and regenerating axons. In animals FB injected on PND 10, the FB neurons were all located in sensorimotor cortex. Very few DY and no FB/DY neurons were present. We have also looked at the topography of the CS neurons which project caudal to early spinal lesions. Rat pups received a CHR on PND 0, 3, 6, or 12. As adults, horseradish peroxidase was injected into the cervical or lumbar enlargement of the spinal cord and the distribution of labeled cells in the cerebral cortex was plotted and compared to normal and lesioned adult controls. In all experimental animals, the distribution of retrogradely labeled cells was restricted to the area containing CS projection neurons in the normal animal. This is despite the fact that the number of CS projection neurons is greatly reduced from normal and the normal pathway for CS axonal outgrowth has been completely disrupted by the neonatal lesion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amidines
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / physiology*
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rhodamines
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord / ultrastructure
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Amidines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Rhodamines
  • diamidino compound 253-50
  • diamidino yellow