Presynaptic inhibition is one of the most powerful inhibitory mechanisms in the spinal cord. The underlying physiological mechanism is a depolarization of primary afferent fibers mediated by GABAergic axo-axonal synapses (primary afferent depolarization). The strength of primary afferent depolarization can be measured by recording of volume-conducted potentials at the dorsal root (dorsal root potentials, DRP). Pathological changes of presynaptic inhibition are crucial in the abnormal central processing of certain pain conditions and in some disorders of motor hyperexcitability. Here, we describe a method of recording DRP in vivo in mice. The preparation of spinal cord dorsal roots in the anesthetized animal and the recording procedure using suction electrodes are explained. This method allows measuring GABAergic DRP and thereby estimating spinal presynaptic inhibition in the living mouse. In combination with transgenic mouse models, DRP recording may serve as a powerful tool to investigate disease-associated spinal pathophysiology. In vivo recording has several advantages compared to ex vivo isolated spinal cord preparations, e.g. the possibility of simultaneous recording or manipulation of supraspinal networks and induction of DRP by stimulation of peripheral nerves.
22 Related JoVE Articles!
Spinal Cord Electrophysiology
Institutions: Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Gene Expression Laboratory, University of California San Diego - UCSD.
The neonatal mouse spinal cord is a model for studying the development of neural circuitries and locomotor movement. We demonstrate the spinal cord dissection and preparation of recording bath artificial cerebrospinal fluid used for locomotor studies. Once dissected, the spinal cord ventral nerve roots can be attached to a recording electrode to record the electrophysiologic signals of the central pattern generating circuitry within the lumbar cord.
Neuroscience, Issue 35, Electrophysiology, central pattern generator, spinal cord, artificial cerebrospinal fluid
In Vivo SiRNA Transfection and Gene Knockdown in Spinal Cord via Rapid Noninvasive Lumbar Intrathecal Injections in Mice
Institutions: University of Heidelberg.
This report describes a step-by-step guide to the technique of acute intrathecal needle injections in a noninvasive manner, i.e.
independent of catheter implantation. The technical limitation of this surgical technique lies in the finesse of the hands. The injection is rapid, especially for a trained experimenter, and since tissue disruption with this technique is minimal, repeated injections are possible; moreover immune reaction to foreign tools (e.g
. catheter) does not occur, thereby giving a better and more specific read out of spinal cord modulation. Since the application of the substance is largely limited to the target region of the spinal cord, drugs do not need to be applied in large dosages, and more importantly unwanted effects on other tissue, as observed with a systemic delivery, could be circumvented1,2
. Moreover, we combine this technique with in vivo
transfection of nucleic acid with the help of polyethylenimine (PEI) reagent3
, which provides tremendous versatility for studying spinal functions via
delivery of pharmacological agents as well as gene, RNA, and protein modulators.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, spinal cord, intrathecal, in vivo transfection, siRNA, mouse
A Functional Motor Unit in the Culture Dish: Co-culture of Spinal Cord Explants and Muscle Cells
Institutions: University of Basel.
Human primary muscle cells cultured aneurally in monolayer rarely contract spontaneously because, in the absence of a nerve component, cell differentiation is limited and motor neuron stimulation is missing1
. These limitations hamper the in vitro
study of many neuromuscular diseases in cultured muscle cells. Importantly, the experimental constraints of monolayered, cultured muscle cells can be overcome by functional innervation of myofibers with spinal cord explants in co-cultures.
Here, we show the different steps required to achieve an efficient, proper innervation of human primary muscle cells, leading to complete differentiation and fiber contraction according to the method developed by Askanas2
. To do so, muscle cells are co-cultured with spinal cord explants of rat embryos at ED 13.5, with the dorsal root ganglia still attached to the spinal cord slices. After a few days, the muscle fibers start to contract and eventually become cross-striated through innervation by functional neurites projecting from the spinal cord explants that connecting to the muscle cells. This structure can be maintained for many months, simply by regular exchange of the culture medium.
The applications of this invaluable tool are numerous, as it represents a functional model for multidisciplinary analyses of human muscle development and innervation. In fact, a complete de novo
neuromuscular junction installation occurs in a culture dish, allowing an easy measurement of many parameters at each step, in a fundamental and physiological context.
Just to cite a few examples, genomic and/or proteomic studies can be performed directly on the co-cultures. Furthermore, pre- and post-synaptic effects can be specifically and separately assessed at the neuromuscular junction, because both components come from different species, rat and human, respectively. The nerve-muscle co-culture can also be performed with human muscle cells isolated from patients suffering from muscle or neuromuscular diseases3
, and thus can be used as a screening tool for candidate drugs. Finally, no special equipment but a regular BSL2 facility is needed to reproduce a functional motor unit in a culture dish. This method thus is valuable for both the muscle as well as the neuromuscular research communities for physiological and mechanistic studies of neuromuscular function, in a normal and disease context.
Neuroscience, Issue 62, Human primary muscle cells, embryonic spinal cord explants, neurites, innervation, contraction, cell culture
Stereotaxic Injection of a Viral Vector for Conditional Gene Manipulation in the Mouse Spinal Cord
Institutions: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Columbia University , Niigata University Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences.
Intraparenchymal injection of a viral vector enables conditional gene manipulation in distinct populations of neurons or particular regions of the central nervous system. We demonstrate a stereotaxic injection technique that allows targeted gene expression or silencing in the dorsal horn of the mouse spinal cord. The surgical procedure is brief. It requires laminectomy of a single vertebra, providing for quick recovery of the animal and unimpaired motility of the spine. Controlled injection of a small vector suspension volume at low speed and use of a microsyringe with beveled glass cannula minimize the tissue lesion. The local immune response to the vector depends on the intrinsic properties of the virus employed; in our experience, it is minor and short-lived when a recombinant adeno-associated virus is used. A reporter gene such as enhanced green fluorescent protein facilitates monitoring spatial distribution of the vector, and the efficacy and cellular specificity of the transfection.
Neuroscience, Issue 73, Neurobiology, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Virology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Spinal Cord, Stereotaxic Techniques, Genetic Vectors, mouse spinal cord, dorsal horn, stereotaxic injection, viral vector, transgenic, gene expression, transfection, neurons, GFP, immunostaining, animal model
DiI-Labeling of DRG Neurons to Study Axonal Branching in a Whole Mount Preparation of Mouse Embryonic Spinal Cord
Institutions: Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine.
Here we present a technique to label the trajectories of small groups of DRG neurons into the embryonic spinal cord by diffusive staining using the lipophilic tracer 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate (DiI)1
. The comparison of axonal pathways of wild-type with those of mouse lines in which genes are mutated allows testing for a functional role of candidate proteins in the control of axonal branching which is an essential mechanism in the wiring of the nervous system. Axonal branching enables an individual neuron to connect with multiple targets, thereby providing the physical basis for the parallel processing of information. Ramifications at intermediate target regions of axonal growth may be distinguished from terminal arborization. Furthermore, different modes of axonal branch formation may be classified depending on whether branching results from the activities of the growth cone (splitting or delayed branching) or from the budding of collaterals from the axon shaft in a process called interstitial branching2
The central projections of neurons from the DRG offer a useful experimental system to study both types of axonal branching: when their afferent axons reach the dorsal root entry zone (DREZ) of the spinal cord between embryonic days 10 to 13 (E10 - E13) they display a stereotyped pattern of T- or Y-shaped bifurcation. The two resulting daughter axons then proceed in rostral or caudal directions, respectively, at the dorsolateral margin of the cord and only after a waiting period collaterals sprout from these stem axons to penetrate the gray matter (interstitial branching) and project to relay neurons in specific laminae of the spinal cord where they further arborize (terminal branching)3
. DiI tracings have revealed growth cones at the dorsal root entry zone of the spinal cord that appeared to be in the process of splitting suggesting that bifurcation is caused by splitting of the growth cone itself4
), however, other options have been discussed as well5
This video demonstrates first how to dissect the spinal cord of E12.5 mice leaving the DRG attached. Following fixation of the specimen tiny amounts of DiI are applied to DRG using glass needles pulled from capillary tubes. After an incubation step, the labeled spinal cord is mounted as an inverted open-book preparation to analyze individual axons using fluorescence microscopy.
Neuroscience, Issue 58, neurons, axonal branching, DRG, Spinal cord, DiI labeling, cGMP signaling
Complete Spinal Cord Injury and Brain Dissection Protocol for Subsequent Wholemount In Situ Hybridization in Larval Sea Lamprey
Institutions: University of Edinburgh, Temple University School of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine.
After a complete spinal cord injury, sea lampreys at first are paralyzed below the level of transection. However, they recover locomotion after several weeks, and this is accompanied by short distance regeneration (a few mm) of propriospinal axons and spinal-projecting axons from the brainstem. Among the 36 large identifiable spinal-projecting neurons, some are good regenerators and others are bad regenerators. These neurons can most easily be identified in wholemount CNS preparations. In order to understand the neuron-intrinsic mechanisms that favor or inhibit axon regeneration after injury in the vertebrates CNS, we determine differences in gene expression between the good and bad regenerators, and how expression is influenced by spinal cord transection. This paper illustrates the techniques for housing larval and recently transformed adult sea lampreys in fresh water tanks, producing complete spinal cord transections under microscopic vision, and preparing brain and spinal cord wholemounts for in situ hybridization. Briefly, animals are kept at 16
°C and anesthetized in 1% Benzocaine in lamprey Ringer. The spinal cord is transected with iridectomy scissors via a dorsal approach and the animal is allowed to recover in fresh water tanks at 23 °C. For in situ
hybridization, animals are reanesthetized and the brain and cord removed via a dorsal approach.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, spinal cord injury, axonal guidance molecules, neurofilaments, regeneration
The Sciatic Nerve Cuffing Model of Neuropathic Pain in Mice
Institutions: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université de Strasbourg, Hôpitaux Universitaires de Strasbourg.
Neuropathic pain arises as a consequence of a lesion or a disease affecting the somatosensory system. This syndrome results from maladaptive changes in injured sensory neurons and along the entire nociceptive pathway within the central nervous system. It is usually chronic and challenging to treat. In order to study neuropathic pain and its treatments, different models have been developed in rodents. These models derive from known etiologies, thus reproducing peripheral nerve injuries, central injuries, and metabolic-, infectious- or chemotherapy-related neuropathies. Murine models of peripheral nerve injury often target the sciatic nerve which is easy to access and allows nociceptive tests on the hind paw. These models rely on a compression and/or a section. Here, the detailed surgery procedure for the "cuff model" of neuropathic pain in mice is described. In this model, a cuff of PE-20 polyethylene tubing of standardized length (2 mm) is unilaterally implanted around the main branch of the sciatic nerve. It induces a long-lasting mechanical allodynia, i.e
., a nociceptive response to a normally non-nociceptive stimulus that can be evaluated by using von Frey filaments. Besides the detailed surgery and testing procedures, the interest of this model for the study of neuropathic pain mechanism, for the study of neuropathic pain sensory and anxiodepressive aspects, and for the study of neuropathic pain treatments are also discussed.
Medicine, Issue 89, pain, neuropathic pain, allodynia, von Frey, mouse, model, sciatic, cuff
Simultaneous Intracellular Recording of a Lumbar Motoneuron and the Force Produced by its Motor Unit in the Adult Mouse In vivo
Institutions: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The spinal motoneuron has long been a good model system for studying neural function because it is a neuron of the central nervous system with the unique properties of (1) having readily identifiable targets (the muscle fibers) and therefore having a very well-known function (to control muscle contraction); (2) being the convergent target of many spinal and descending networks, hence the name of "final common pathway"; and (3) having a large soma which makes it possible to penetrate them with sharp intracellular electrodes. Furthermore, when studied in vivo
, it is possible to record simultaneously the electrical activity of the motoneurons and the force developed by their muscle targets. Performing intracellular recordings of motoneurons in vivo
therefore put the experimentalist in the unique position of being able to study, at the same time, all the compartments of the "motor unit" (the name given to the motoneuron, its axon, and the muscle fibers it innervates1
): the inputs impinging on the motoneuron, the electrophysiological properties of the motoneuron, and the impact of these properties on the physiological function of the motoneurons, i.e.
the force produced by its motor unit. However, this approach is very challenging because the preparation cannot be paralyzed and thus the mechanical stability for the intracellular recording is reduced. Thus, this kind of experiments has only been achieved in cats and in rats. However, the study of spinal motor systems could make a formidable leap if it was possible to perform similar experiments in normal and genetically modified mice.
For technical reasons, the study of the spinal networks in mice has mostly been limited to neonatal in vitro
preparations, where the motoneurons and the spinal networks are immature, the motoneurons are separated from their targets, and when studied in slices, the motoneurons are separated from most of their inputs. Until recently, only a few groups had managed to perform intracellular recordings of motoneurons in vivo2-4
, including our team who published a new preparation which allowed us to obtain very stable recordings of motoneurons in vivo
in adult mice5,6
. However, these recordings were obtained in paralyzed animals, i.e.
without the possibility to record the force output of these motoneurons. Here we present an extension of this original preparation in which we were able to obtain simultaneous recordings of the electrophysiological properties of the motoneurons and of the force developed by their motor unit. This is an important achievement, as it allows us to identify the different types of motoneurons based on their force profile, and thereby revealing their function. Coupled with genetic models disturbing spinal segmental circuitry7-9
, or reproducting human disease10,11
, we expect this technique to be an essential tool for the study of spinal motor system.
Neuroscience, Issue 70, Physiology, Biophysics, Anatomy, Medicine, Motor System, Spinal Cord, Intracellular Recordings, Motoneurons, EMG, Force, lumbar, neuron, brain, mouse, animal model
Transplantation of Olfactory Ensheathing Cells to Evaluate Functional Recovery after Peripheral Nerve Injury
Institutions: University of Rouen, Karolinska Institutet, Rouen University Hospital, Amiens University Hospital.
Olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) are neural crest cells which allow growth and regrowth of the primary olfactory neurons. Indeed, the primary olfactory system is characterized by its ability to give rise to new neurons even in adult animals. This particular ability is partly due to the presence of OECs which create a favorable microenvironment for neurogenesis. This property of OECs has been used for cellular transplantation such as in spinal cord injury models. Although the peripheral nervous system has a greater capacity to regenerate after nerve injury than the central nervous system, complete sections induce misrouting during axonal regrowth in particular after facial of laryngeal nerve transection. Specifically, full sectioning of the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) induces aberrant axonal regrowth resulting in synkinesis of the vocal cords. In this specific model, we showed that OECs transplantation efficiently increases axonal regrowth.
OECs are constituted of several subpopulations present in both the olfactory mucosa (OM-OECs) and the olfactory bulbs (OB-OECs). We present here a model of cellular transplantation based on the use of these different subpopulations of OECs in a RLN injury model. Using this paradigm, primary cultures of OB-OECs and OM-OECs were transplanted in Matrigel after section and anastomosis of the RLN. Two months after surgery, we evaluated transplanted animals by complementary analyses based on videolaryngoscopy, electromyography (EMG), and histological studies. First, videolaryngoscopy allowed us to evaluate laryngeal functions, in particular muscular cocontractions phenomena. Then, EMG analyses demonstrated richness and synchronization of muscular activities. Finally, histological studies based on toluidine blue staining allowed the quantification of the number and profile of myelinated fibers.
All together, we describe here how to isolate, culture, identify and transplant OECs from OM and OB after RLN section-anastomosis and how to evaluate and analyze the efficiency of these transplanted cells on axonal regrowth and laryngeal functions.
Neuroscience, Issue 84, olfactory ensheathing cells, spinal cord injury, transplantation, larynx, recurrent laryngeal nerve, peripheral nerve injury, vocal cords
Deciphering Axonal Pathways of Genetically Defined Groups of Neurons in the Chick Neural Tube Utilizing in ovo Electroporation
Institutions: Institute for Medical Research Israel Canada, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.
Employment of enhancer elements to drive expression of reporter genes in neurons is a widely used paradigm for tracking axonal projection. For tracking axonal projection of spinal interneurons in vertebrates, germ line-targeted reporter genes yield bilaterally symmetric labeling. Therefore, it is hard to distinguish between the ipsi- and contra-laterally projecting axons. Unilateral electroporation into the chick neural tube provides a useful means to restrict expression of a reporter gene to one side of the central nervous system, and to follow axonal projection on both sides 1 ,2-5
. This video demonstrates first how to handle the eggs prior to injection. At HH stage 18-20, DNA is injected into the sacral level of the neural tube, then tungsten electrodes are placed parallel to the embryo and short electrical pulses are administered with a pulse generator. The egg is sealed with tape and placed back into an incubator for further development. Three days later (E6) the spinal cord is removed as an open book preparation from embryo, fixed, and processed for whole mount antibody staining. The stained spinal cord is mounted on slide and visualized using confocal microscopy.
Neuroscience, Issue 39, in ovo electroporation, neural tube, chick, interneurons, axonal pathway
Dorsal Column Steerability with Dual Parallel Leads using Dedicated Power Sources: A Computational Model
In spinal cord stimulation (SCS), concordance of stimulation-induced paresthesia over painful body regions is a necessary condition for therapeutic efficacy. Since patient pain patterns can be unique, a common stimulation configuration is the placement of two leads in parallel in the dorsal epidural space. This construct provides flexibility in steering stimulation current mediolaterally over the dorsal column to achieve better pain-paresthesia overlap. Using a mathematical model with an accurate fiber diameter distribution, we studied the ability of dual parallel leads to steer stimulation between adjacent contacts on dual parallel leads using (1) a single source system, and (2) a multi-source system, with a dedicated current source for each contact. The volume conductor model of a low-thoracic spinal cord with epidurally-positioned dual parallel (2 mm separation) percutaneous leads was first created, and the electric field was calculated using ANSYS, a finite element modeling tool. The activating function for 10 um fibers was computed as the second difference of the extracellular potential along the nodes of Ranvier on the nerve fibers in the dorsal column. The volume of activation (VOA) and the central point of the VOA were computed using a predetermined threshold of the activating function. The model compared the field steering results with single source versus dedicated power source systems on dual 8-contact stimulation leads. The model predicted that the multi-source system can target more central points of stimulation on the dorsal column than a single source system (100 vs. 3) and the mean steering step for mediolateral steering is 0.02 mm for multi-source systems vs 1 mm for single source systems, a 50-fold improvement. The ability to center stimulation regions in the dorsal column with high resolution may allow for better optimization of paresthesia-pain overlap in patients.
Medicine, Issue 48, spinal cord stimulation, dorsal columns, current steering, field steering
Intravital Imaging of Axonal Interactions with Microglia and Macrophages in a Mouse Dorsal Column Crush Injury
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve University, Case Western Reserve University.
Traumatic spinal cord injury causes an inflammatory reaction involving blood-derived macrophages and central nervous system (CNS)-resident microglia. Intra-vital two-photon microscopy enables the study of macrophages and microglia in the spinal cord lesion in the living animal. This can be performed in adult animals with a traumatic injury to the dorsal column. Here, we describe methods for distinguishing macrophages from microglia in the CNS using an irradiation bone marrow chimera to obtain animals in which only macrophages or microglia are labeled with a genetically encoded green fluorescent protein. We also describe a injury model that crushes the dorsal column of the spinal cord, thereby producing a simple, easily accessible, rectangular lesion that is easily visualized in an animal through a laminectomy. Furthermore, we will outline procedures to sequentially image the animals at the anatomical site of injury for the study of cellular interactions during the first few days to weeks after injury.
Cellular Biology, Issue 93, Intravital, spinal cord crush injury, chimera, microglia, macrophages, dorsal column crush, axonal dieback
Utilizing Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to Study the Human Neuromuscular System
Institutions: Ohio University.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been in use for more than 20 years 1
, and has grown exponentially in popularity over the past decade. While the use of TMS has expanded to the study of many systems and processes during this time, the original application and perhaps one of the most common uses of TMS involves studying the physiology, plasticity and function of the human neuromuscular system. Single pulse TMS applied to the motor cortex excites pyramidal neurons transsynaptically 2
(Figure 1) and results in a measurable electromyographic response that can be used to study and evaluate the integrity and excitability of the corticospinal tract in humans 3
. Additionally, recent advances in magnetic stimulation now allows for partitioning of cortical versus spinal excitability 4,5
. For example, paired-pulse TMS can be used to assess intracortical facilitatory and inhibitory properties by combining a conditioning stimulus and a test stimulus at different interstimulus intervals 3,4,6-8
. In this video article we will demonstrate the methodological and technical aspects of these techniques. Specifically, we will demonstrate single-pulse and paired-pulse TMS techniques as applied to the flexor carpi radialis (FCR) muscle as well as the erector spinae (ES) musculature. Our laboratory studies the FCR muscle as it is of interest to our research on the effects of wrist-hand cast immobilization on reduced muscle performance6,9
, and we study the ES muscles due to these muscles clinical relevance as it relates to low back pain8
. With this stated, we should note that TMS has been used to study many muscles of the hand, arm and legs, and should iterate that our demonstrations in the FCR and ES muscle groups are only selected examples of TMS being used to study the human neuromuscular system.
Medicine, Issue 59, neuroscience, muscle, electromyography, physiology, TMS, strength, motor control. sarcopenia, dynapenia, lumbar
Bladder Smooth Muscle Strip Contractility as a Method to Evaluate Lower Urinary Tract Pharmacology
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
We describe an in vitro
method to measure bladder smooth muscle contractility, and its use for investigating physiological and pharmacological properties of the smooth muscle as well as changes induced by pathology. This method provides critical information for understanding bladder function while overcoming major methodological difficulties encountered in in vivo
experiments, such as surgical and pharmacological manipulations that affect stability and survival of the preparations, the use of human tissue, and/or the use of expensive chemicals. It also provides a way to investigate the properties of each bladder component (i.e.
smooth muscle, mucosa, nerves) in healthy and pathological conditions.
The urinary bladder is removed from an anesthetized animal, placed in Krebs solution and cut into strips. Strips are placed into a chamber filled with warm Krebs solution. One end is attached to an isometric tension transducer to measure contraction force, the other end is attached to a fixed rod. Tissue is stimulated by directly adding compounds to the bath or by electric field stimulation electrodes that activate nerves, similar to triggering bladder contractions in vivo
. We demonstrate the use of this method to evaluate spontaneous smooth muscle contractility during development and after an experimental spinal cord injury, the nature of neurotransmission (transmitters and receptors involved), factors involved in modulation of smooth muscle activity, the role of individual bladder components, and species and organ differences in response to pharmacological agents. Additionally, it could be used for investigating intracellular pathways involved in contraction and/or relaxation of the smooth muscle, drug structure-activity relationships and evaluation of transmitter release.
The in vitro
smooth muscle contractility method has been used extensively for over 50 years, and has provided data that significantly contributed to our understanding of bladder function as well as to pharmaceutical development of compounds currently used clinically for bladder management.
Medicine, Issue 90, Krebs, species differences, in vitro, smooth muscle contractility, neural stimulation
Acute Dissociation of Lamprey Reticulospinal Axons to Enable Recording from the Release Face Membrane of Individual Functional Presynaptic Terminals
Institutions: University of Illinois at Chicago.
Synaptic transmission is an extremely rapid process. Action potential driven influx of Ca2+
into the presynaptic terminal, through voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) located in the release face membrane, is the trigger for vesicle fusion and neurotransmitter release. Crucial to the rapidity of synaptic transmission is the spatial and temporal synchrony between the arrival of the action potential, VGCCs and the neurotransmitter release machinery. The ability to directly record Ca2+
currents from the release face membrane of individual presynaptic terminals is imperative for a precise understanding of the relationship between presynaptic Ca2+
and neurotransmitter release. Access to the presynaptic release face membrane for electrophysiological recording is not available in most preparations and presynaptic Ca2+
entry has been characterized using imaging techniques and macroscopic current measurements – techniques that do not have sufficient temporal resolution to visualize Ca2+
entry. The characterization of VGCCs directly at single presynaptic terminals has not been possible in central synapses and has thus far been successfully achieved only in the calyx-type synapse of the chick ciliary ganglion and in rat calyces. We have successfully addressed this problem in the giant reticulospinal synapse of the lamprey spinal cord by developing an acutely dissociated preparation of the spinal cord that yields isolated reticulospinal axons with functional presynaptic terminals devoid of postsynaptic structures. We can fluorescently label and identify individual presynaptic terminals and target them for recording. Using this preparation, we have characterized VGCCs directly at the release face of individual presynaptic terminals using immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology approaches. Ca2+
currents have been recorded directly at the release face membrane of individual presynaptic terminals, the first such recording to be carried out at central synapses.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, reticulospinal synapse, reticulospinal axons, presynaptic terminal, presynaptic calcium, voltage-gated calcium channels, vesicle fusion, synaptic transmission, neurotransmitter release, spinal cord, lamprey, synaptic vesicles, acute dissociation
Unilateral Pyramidotomy of the Corticospinal Tract in Rats for Assessment of Neuroplasticity-inducing Therapies
Institutions: King's College London, Baylor College of Medicine.
The corticospinal tract (CST) can be completely severed unilaterally in the medullary pyramids of the rodent brainstem. The CST is a motor tract that has great importance for distal muscle control in humans and, to a lesser extent, in rodents. A unilateral cut of one pyramid results in loss of CST innervation of the spinal cord mainly on the contralateral side of the spinal cord leading to transient motor disability in the forelimbs and sustained loss of dexterity. Ipsilateral projections of the corticospinal tract are minor. We have refined our surgical method to increase the chances of lesion completeness. We describe postsurgical care. Deficits on the Montoya staircase pellet reaching test and the horizontal ladder test shown here are detected up to 8 weeks postinjury. Deficits on the cylinder rearing test are only detected transiently. Therefore, the cylinder test may only be suitable for detection of short term recovery. We show how, electrophysiologically and anatomically, one may assess lesions and plastic changes. We also describe how to analyse fibers from the uninjured CST sprouting across the midline into the deprived areas. It is challenging to obtain >90% complete lesions consistently due to the proximity to the basilar artery in the medulla oblongata and survival rates can be low. Alternative surgical approaches and behavioural testing are described in this protocol. The pyramidotomy model is a good tool for assessing neuroplasticity-inducing treatments, which increase sprouting of intact fibers after injury.
Neuroscience, Issue 94, central nervous system lesions, pyramids, unilateral spinal cord injury, in vivo, corticospinal tract lesion, forelimb function,
Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro
model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2
on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3
cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro
BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
Combining Peripheral Nerve Grafting and Matrix Modulation to Repair the Injured Rat Spinal Cord
Institutions: Drexel University College of Medicine.
Traumatic injury to the spinal cord (SCI) causes death of neurons, disruption of motor and sensory nerve fiber (axon) pathways and disruption of communication with the brain. One of the goals of our research is to promote axon regeneration to restore connectivity across the lesion site. To accomplish this we developed a peripheral nerve (PN) grafting technique where segments of sciatic nerve are either placed directly between the damaged ends of the spinal cord or are used to form a bridge across the lesion. There are several advantages to this approach compared to transplantation of other neural tissues; regenerating axons can be directed towards a specific target area, the number and source of regenerating axons is easily determined by tracing techniques, the graft can be used for electrophysiological experiments to measure functional recovery associated with axons in the graft, and it is possible to use an autologous nerve to reduce the possibility of graft rejection. In our lab we have performed both autologous (donor and recipient are the same animal) and heterologous (donor and recipient are different animals) grafts with comparable results. This approach has been used successfully in both acute and chronic injury situations. Regenerated axons that reach the distal end of the PN graft often fail to extend back into the spinal cord, so we use microinjections of chondroitinase to degrade inhibitory molecules associated with the scar tissue surrounding the area of SCI. At the same time we have found that providing exogenous growth and trophic molecules encourages longer distance axonal regrowth into the spinal cord. Several months after transplantation we perform a variety of anatomical, behavioral and electrophysiological tests to evaluate the recovery of function in our spinal cord injured animals. This experimental approach has been used successfully in several spinal cord injury models, at different levels of injury and in different species (mouse, rat and cat). Importantly, the peripheral nerve grafting approach is effective in promoting regeneration by acute and chronically injured neurons.
Neurobiology, Issue 33, transplantation, SCI, regeneration, tract tracing, electrophysiology
Membrane Potentials, Synaptic Responses, Neuronal Circuitry, Neuromodulation and Muscle Histology Using the Crayfish: Student Laboratory Exercises
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Toronto.
The purpose of this report is to help develop an understanding of the effects caused by ion gradients across a biological membrane. Two aspects that influence a cell's membrane potential and which we address in these experiments are: (1) Ion concentration of K+
on the outside of the membrane, and (2) the permeability of the membrane to specific ions. The crayfish abdominal extensor muscles are in groupings with some being tonic (slow) and others phasic (fast) in their biochemical and physiological phenotypes, as well as in their structure; the motor neurons that innervate these muscles are correspondingly different in functional characteristics. We use these muscles as well as the superficial, tonic abdominal flexor muscle to demonstrate properties in synaptic transmission. In addition, we introduce a sensory-CNS-motor neuron-muscle circuit to demonstrate the effect of cuticular sensory stimulation as well as the influence of neuromodulators on certain aspects of the circuit. With the techniques obtained in this exercise, one can begin to answer many questions remaining in other experimental preparations as well as in physiological applications related to medicine and health. We have demonstrated the usefulness of model invertebrate preparations to address fundamental questions pertinent to all animals.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, Invertebrate, Crayfish, neurophysiology, muscle, anatomy, electrophysiology
An Ex Vivo Laser-induced Spinal Cord Injury Model to Assess Mechanisms of Axonal Degeneration in Real-time
Institutions: University of Louisville, University of Calgary.
Injured CNS axons fail to regenerate and often retract away from the injury site. Axons spared from the initial injury may later undergo secondary axonal degeneration. Lack of growth cone formation, regeneration, and loss of additional myelinated axonal projections within the spinal cord greatly limits neurological recovery following injury. To assess how central myelinated axons of the spinal cord respond to injury, we developed an ex vivo
living spinal cord model utilizing transgenic mice that express yellow fluorescent protein in axons and a focal and highly reproducible laser-induced spinal cord injury to document the fate of axons and myelin (lipophilic fluorescent dye Nile Red) over time using two-photon excitation time-lapse microscopy. Dynamic processes such as acute axonal injury, axonal retraction, and myelin degeneration are best studied in real-time. However, the non-focal nature of contusion-based injuries and movement artifacts encountered during in vivo
spinal cord imaging make differentiating primary and secondary axonal injury responses using high resolution microscopy challenging. The ex vivo
spinal cord model described here mimics several aspects of clinically relevant contusion/compression-induced axonal pathologies including axonal swelling, spheroid formation, axonal transection, and peri-axonal swelling providing a useful model to study these dynamic processes in real-time. Major advantages of this model are excellent spatiotemporal resolution that allows differentiation between the primary insult that directly injures axons and secondary injury mechanisms; controlled infusion of reagents directly to the perfusate bathing the cord; precise alterations of the environmental milieu (e.g.,
calcium, sodium ions, known contributors to axonal injury, but near impossible to manipulate in vivo
); and murine models also offer an advantage as they provide an opportunity to visualize and manipulate genetically identified cell populations and subcellular structures. Here, we describe how to isolate and image the living spinal cord from mice to capture dynamics of acute axonal injury.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, spinal cord injury, axon, myelin, two-photon excitation microscopy, Nile Red, axonal degeneration, axonal dieback, axonal retraction
A Proboscis Extension Response Protocol for Investigating Behavioral Plasticity in Insects: Application to Basic, Biomedical, and Agricultural Research
Institutions: Arizona State University.
Insects modify their responses to stimuli through experience of associating those stimuli with events important for survival (e.g.
, food, mates, threats). There are several behavioral mechanisms through which an insect learns salient associations and relates them to these events. It is important to understand this behavioral plasticity for programs aimed toward assisting insects that are beneficial for agriculture. This understanding can also be used for discovering solutions to biomedical and agricultural problems created by insects that act as disease vectors and pests. The Proboscis Extension Response (PER) conditioning protocol was developed for honey bees (Apis mellifera
) over 50 years ago to study how they perceive and learn about floral odors, which signal the nectar and pollen resources a colony needs for survival. The PER procedure provides a robust and easy-to-employ framework for studying several different ecologically relevant mechanisms of behavioral plasticity. It is easily adaptable for use with several other insect species and other behavioral reflexes. These protocols can be readily employed in conjunction with various means for monitoring neural activity in the CNS via electrophysiology or bioimaging, or for manipulating targeted neuromodulatory pathways. It is a robust assay for rapidly detecting sub-lethal effects on behavior caused by environmental stressors, toxins or pesticides.
We show how the PER protocol is straightforward to implement using two procedures. One is suitable as a laboratory exercise for students or for quick assays of the effect of an experimental treatment. The other provides more thorough control of variables, which is important for studies of behavioral conditioning. We show how several measures for the behavioral response ranging from binary yes/no to more continuous variable like latency and duration of proboscis extension can be used to test hypotheses. And, we discuss some pitfalls that researchers commonly encounter when they use the procedure for the first time.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, PER, conditioning, honey bee, olfaction, olfactory processing, learning, memory, toxin assay
Chronic Constriction of the Sciatic Nerve and Pain Hypersensitivity Testing in Rats
Institutions: University of New South Wales .
Chronic neuropathic pain, resulting from damage to the central or peripheral nervous system, is a prevalent and debilitating condition, affecting 7-18% of the population1,2
. Symptoms include spontaneous (tingling, burning, electric-shock like) pain, dysaesthesia, paraesthesia, allodynia (pain resulting from normally non-painful stimuli) and hyperalgesia (an increased response to painful stimuli). The sensory symptoms are co-morbid with behavioural disabilities, such as insomnia and depression. To study chronic neuropathic pain several animal models mimicking peripheral nerve injury have been developed, one of the most widely used is Bennett and Xie's (1988) unilateral sciatic nerve chronic constriction injury (CCI)3
). Here we present a method for performing CCI and testing pain hypersensitivity.
CCI is performed under anaesthesia, with the sciatic nerve on one side exposed by making a skin incision, and cutting through the connective tissue between the gluteus superficialis and biceps femoris muscles. Four chromic gut ligatures are tied loosely around the sciatic nerve at 1 mm intervals, to just occlude but not arrest epineural blood flow. The wound is closed with sutures in the muscle and staples in the skin. The animal is then allowed to recover from surgery for 24 hrs before pain hypersensitivity testing begins.
For behavioural testing, rats are placed into the testing apparatus and are allowed to habituate to the testing procedure. The area tested is the mid-plantar surface of the hindpaw (Figure 2
), which falls within the sciatic nerve distribution. Mechanical withdrawal threshold is assessed by mechanically stimulating both injured and uninjured hindpaws using an electronic dynamic plantar von Frey aesthesiometer or manual von Frey hairs4
. The mechanical withdrawal threshold is the maximum pressure exerted (in grams) that triggers paw withdrawal. For measurement of thermal withdrawal latency, first described by Hargreaves et al
(1988), the hindpaw is exposed to a beam of radiant heat through a transparent glass surface using a plantar analgesia meter5,6
. The withdrawal latency to the heat stimulus is recorded as the time for paw withdrawal in both injured and uninjured hindpaws. Following CCI, mechanical withdrawal threshold, as well as thermal withdrawal latency in the injured paw are both significantly reduced, compared to baseline measurements and the uninjured paw (Figure 3
). The CCI model of peripheral nerve injury combined with pain hypersensitivity testing provides a model system to investigate the effectiveness of potential therapeutic agents to modify chronic neuropathic pain. In our laboratory, we utilise CCI alongside thermal and mechanical sensitivity of the hindpaws to investigate the role of neuro-immune interactions in the pathogenesis and treatment of neuropathic pain.
Medicine, Issue 61, Neuropathic pain, sciatic nerve, chronic constriction injury, pain hypersensitivity