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Abstract

A series of studies has examined the response of the spinal cord to lesions made at various stages prior to and after metamorphic climax in the clawed frog Xenopus laevis. Complete transections made between Nieuwkoop and Faber (1956) stages 50 and 62 were followed by gradual recovery of righting and coordinated swimming as animals metamorphosed into juveniles (stage 66). Examination of descending axonal projections using horseradish peroxidase (HRP) showed fibers crossing the lesion site and distributing to the caudal lumbar spinal cord. These fibers could be traced from more rostral spinal segments as well as from brainstem injections of HRP. No evidence for rostrally projecting fibers crossing the lesion was obtained. Juvenile frogs of varying ages failed to demonstrate recovery of coordinated swimming or reconstitution of spinal descending pathways. In an additional series of animals, spinal transections were made within 1 or 2 days of tail resorption to assess whether regenerative capacities extended at all into post-metamorphic stages. No evidence for regeneration was found. Studies of metamorphosing frogs after spinal transections showed that fibers crossed the lesion within 5–12 days of transection, well prior to the end of metamorphic climax; however, in some cases in which metamorphosis seemed arrested, little regeneration was observed. Immunocytochemical studies showed that fibers containing serotonin (5-HT) were included in the population of axons that rapidly crossed the lesion after transection at metamorphic stages. These results are compared to those for lesions of the dorsal columns and other systems in developing and juvenile Xenopus. It is suggested that both metamorphosis-related hormonal changes, and axon substrate pathways, may affect the regenerative response in the Xenopus central nervous system (CNS).