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Keywords:

  • superior cervical ganglion;
  • cAMP;
  • apoptosis

Abstract

Wallerian degeneration of severed axons is delayed in C57BL/Wlds mice. We have examined this further in cultured sympathetic, sensory and CNS neurons using superior cervical ganglion (SCG), dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and cerebellar granule neurons respectively from neonatal mice. We found that the time taken for the neurites to degenerate depends upon the length of time in culture before cutting, reaching a maximum by -7 days when C57BL/WldS neurites survive for >6 days after axotomy. The onset of degeneration could also be extended in SCG and DRG neurites from wild type C57BL/6J mice. After 7 days in culture these neurites normally degenerate within -12–16 h of axotomy, but in the presence of raised K+ (50 mM) degeneration often did not begin until a further 2 days had lapsed. Under similar conditions degeneration of neurites from C57BL/WldS mice was also found to be further delayed, extending survival from -5–6 days to >7 days. The L-type Ca2+ channel blockers nifedipine (5 μM) and verapamil (10 μM) both blocked the effect of raised [K+], although not completely. Thapsigargin, which raises cytoplasmic [Ca2+], and the cAMP analogue 8-(4-chlorophenylthio)cAMP were also able to delay degeneration, but only when added 24 h prior to axotomy. These results show that it is possible to influence the course of Wallerian degeneration and that increases in levels of cytoplasmic Ca2+ can protect neurites from its onset.