Resealing of the proximal and distal cut ends of transected axons: electrophysiological and ultrastructural analysis

J Neurobiol. 1993 Mar;24(3):300-16. doi: 10.1002/neu.480240304.


The fates of the proximal and distal segments of transected axons differ. Whereas the proximal segment usually recovers from injury and regenerates, the distal segment degenerates. In the present report we studied the kinetics of the recovery processes of both proximal and distal axonal segments following axotomy and its temporal relations to the alterations in the cytoarchitecture of the injured neuron. The experiments were performed on primary cultured metacerebral neurons (MCn) isolated from Aplysia. We transected axons while monitoring the changes in transmembrane potential and input resistance (Rn) by inserting intracellular microelectrodes into the soma and axon. Correlation between the electrophysiological status of the injured axon and its ultrastructure was provided by rapid fixation of the neuron at selected times postaxotomy. Axotomy leads to membrane depolarization from a mean of -55.7 S.D. 12.8 mV to -12.7 S.D. 3.3 mV and decreased Rn from tens of M omega to 1-3 M omega. The transected axons remained depolarized for a period of 10-260 s for as long as the axoplasm was in direct contact with the bathing solution. Rapid repolarization and partial recovery of Rn was associated with the formation of a membrane seal over the cut ends by the constriction and subsequent fusion of the axolema. Prior to the formation of a membraneous barrier, electron-dense deposits aggregate at the tip of the cut axon and appear to form an axoplasmic "plug." Electrophysiological analysis revealed that this "plug" does not provide resistance for current flow and that the axoplasmic resistance is homogenously distributed. The kinetics of injury and recovery processes as well as the ultrastructural changes of the proximal and distal segments are identical suggesting that the different fates of the segments cannot be attributed to differences in the immediate response of the segments to axotomy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia / physiology*
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Microelectrodes
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Organelles / physiology
  • Organelles / ultrastructure