Cifra, Mazzone 2011

2011 - Developmental Neurobiology 2011, 72, 1140–1160

Postnatal developmental profile of neurons and glia in motor nuclei of the brainstem and spinal cord, and its comparison with organotypic slice cultures

A. Cifra, G. L. Mazzone, F. Nani, A. Nistri and M. Mladinic


In vitro preparations of the neonatal rat spinal cord or brainstem are useful to investigate the organization of motor networks and their dysfunction in neurological disease models. Long-term spinal cord organotypic cultures can extend our understanding of such pathophysiological processes over longer times. It is, however, surprising that detailed descriptions of the type (and number) of neurons and glia in such preparations are currently unavailable to evaluate cell-selectivity of experimental damage. The focus of the present immunohistochemical study is the novel characterization of the cell population in the lumbar locomotor region of the rat spinal cord and in the brainstem motor nucleus hypoglossus at 0-4 postnatal days, and its comparison with spinal organotypic cultures at 2-22 days in vitro. In the nucleus hypoglossus, neurons were 40% of all cells and 80% of these were motoneurons. Astrocytes (35% of total cells) were the main glial cells, while microglia was <10%. In the spinal gray matter, the highest neuronal density was in the dorsal horn (>80%) and the lowest in the ventral horn (≤57%) with inverse astroglia numbers and few microglia. The number of neurons (including motoneurons) and astrocytes was stable after birth. Like in the spinal cord, motoneurons in organotypic spinal culture were <10% of ventral horn cells, with neurons <40%, and the rest made up by glia. The present report indicates a comparable degree of neuronal and glial maturation in brainstem and spinal motor nuclei, and that this condition is also observed in 3-week-old organotypic cultures.


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