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Intrastriatal Transplants of Embryonic Dopaminergic Neurons Counteract the Increase of Striatal Enkephalin Immunostaining but not Serotoninergic Sprouting Elicited by a Neonatal Lesion of the Nigrostriatal Dopaminergic Pathway


J. P. Herman, Laboratoire de Génétique et Physiologie du Développement, Case 907, Faculté des Sciences de Luminy, 163, Av. de Luminy, 13288 Marseille Cedex 09, France


The aim of the our experiment was to compare the ability of intrastriatal implants of embryonic dopaminergic neurons to reverse two kinds of postlesion modification in the host brain: the change in the activity level of neurons in the denervated area and morphological modifications, e.g. collateral sprouting. The ascending dopaminergic system of 3-day-old rat pups was unilaterally lesioned by an intrahypothalamic injection of the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine. This lesion has been described previously to induce an increase in the level of activity of striatal enkephalinergic neurons. The same lesion leads also to sprouting of the serotoninergic afferents in the striatum, leading to hyperinnervation of this structure. The existence of these modifications thus offers the possibility of testing the influence of grafts in one structure of the same animal on two lesion-induced reactions of different nature. A cell suspension obtained from mesencephali of embryonic day 14 rats and containing dopaminergic neurons was implanted into the denervated striatum of lesioned animals 5 days after the lesion. Nine months later the animals were killed and immunohistochemistry was performed on striatal sections using antibodies directed against tyrosine hydroxylase, methionine enkephalin and serotonin. Intensity of immunostaining (methionine enkephalin and serotonin) as well as innervation density (serotonin) was quantified through the use of a computer-assisted image analyser. The lesion led to the disappearance of striatal dopaminergic innervation. Implanted dopaminergic neurons were found scattered in the striatum and restored a dopaminergic innervation in a large portion of this structure. There was a marked increase in striatal methionine enkephalin immunostaining in lesioned animals, which was most pronounced in the dorsolateral part of the striatum (+ 150% compared to control values), while in the ventral part it was slight or non-existent. The density of striatal serotoninergic innervation was also increased by ∼250% relative to control values. In grafted animals striatal enkephalin immunostaining was similar to that observed in control animals. On the other hand, the serotoninergic hyperinnervation was still present in the graft-bearing striata. These results suggest that while intrastriatal implants of embryonic dopaminergic neurons are able to counteract modifications in the functioning of local striatal neuronal systems such as the increase in enkephalinergic activity or receptor hypersensitivity occurring as a result of the lesion, they might be unable to reverse postlesion morphological modifications.