Protein synthesis inhibitors delay transneuronal death in the piriform cortex of young adult rats

Neuroscience. 1997 Jul;79(2):463-75. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(96)00707-5.


It has been demonstrated that apoptotic cell death is an active process that is dependent on RNA and protein synthesis. The question remains as to whether neuronal death in adult, mammalian brains can also be demonstrated in vivo to be dependent on protein synthesis. To address this question we have analysed transneuronal death in the piriform (olfactory) cortex. Following unilateral olfactory bulb ablation in young adult rats, layer IIa of the piriform cortex undergoes rapid degeneration, that commences 12 h after ablation and that is almost complete at 48 h. In order to block protein synthesis, three to six subcutaneous injections of the short acting protein synthesis inhibitor anisomycin, were given at 2 h intervals beginning just before the ablation of the olfactory bulb. In other cases a single injection of the long acting protein synthesis inhibitor emetine were made intracerebrally just before or after olfactory bulb ablation. The number of dying cells was then counted in sections through the rostrocaudal extent of the piriform cortex. Both anisomycin and emetine injections markedly reduced the number of pyknotic cells in layer IIa of the piriform cortex after olfactory bulb ablation. The effect of anisomycin was dose-dependent, near lethal doses leading to an almost complete absence of cell death (six injections of 100 mg/kg). As the doses of anisomycin were reduced, more dying cells were observed. Emetine was only effective at near lethal doses (10 mg/kg) and showed a greater capacity to reduce the levels of cell death when injected into structures near the piriform cortex (e.g., accumbens nucleus) than when injected into more distant structures. To further confirm that the cell death observed was due to apoptosis, we analysed sections by tunel staining to demonstrate DNA fragmentation. We found that tunel-positive cells were also always pyknotic, one of the landmarks of apoptosis. The appearance of pyknotic cells labelled by the tunel method demonstrated that the dying cells in the piriform cortex did indeed undergo apoptosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anisomycin / pharmacology*
  • Cell Death / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Emetine / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Anisomycin
  • Emetine