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Olivocerebellar Axon Regeneration and Target Reinnervation Following Dissociated Schwann Cell Grafts in Surgically Injured Cerebella of Adult Rats

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Abstract

The ability of Schwann cells to induce the regeneration of severed olivocerebellar and Purkinje cell axons across an injury up to their deafferented targets was tested by transplanting freshly dissociated cells from newborn rat sciatic nerves into surgically lesioned adult cerebella. The grafted glial cells consistently filled the lesion gap and migrated into the host parenchyma. Transected olivocerebellar axons vigorously regenerated into the graft, where their growth pattern and direction followed the arrangement of Schwann cell bundles. Although some of these axons terminated within the transplant, many of them rejoined the cerebellar parenchyma beyond the lesion. Here, their fate depended on the territory encountered. No growth occurred in the white matter. Numerous fibres penetrated into the granular layer and formed terminal branches that remained confined within this layer. A few of them, however, regenerated up to the molecular layer and formed climbing fibres on Purkinje cell dendrites. By contrast, the growth of transected Purkinje cell axons into the grafts was very poor. These results underscore the different intrinsic responsiveness of Purkinje cell and olivocerebellar axons to the growth-promoting action of Schwann cells, and show that the development and outcome of the regenerative phenomena is strongly conditioned by the spatial organization and specific features of the environmental cues encountered by the outgrowing axons along the course they follow. However, Schwann cells effectively bridge the lesion gap, induce the regeneration of olivocerebellar axons, and direct their growth up to the deafferented host cortex, where some of them succeed in reinnervating their natural targets.

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