Microglial response to N-methyl-D-aspartate-mediated excitotoxicity in the immature rat brain

Laia Acarin, Berta González, Bernardo Castellano, Anthony J. Castro

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    The intracerebral injection of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) has been proposed as a model for hypoxic-ischemic insult in the immature brain. In this light, the aim of this study was to describe the time course of the microglial reaction in the areas undergoing primary degeneration at the site of intracortical NMDA injection as well as in areas undergoing secondary anterograde and/or retrograde degeneration. Fifty nanomoles of NMDA were injected in the sensorimotor cortex of 6-day-old rats. After survival times ranging from 10 hours to 28 days, cryostat sections were stained for routine histology and for the demonstration of microglial cells by means of tomato lectin histochemistry. The areas affected by primary degeneration caused by the intracortical injection of NMDA were the neocortex, the hippocampus, and the rostral thalamus. Secondary degeneration (retrograde and anterograde) was observed in the ventrobasal complex of the thalamus. The cortical lesion also caused Wallerian degeneration of the cortical descending efferents as observed in the basilar pons. Microglial reactivity in all these areas was present at 10 hours postinjection and was restricted to the areas undergoing neuronal or axonal degeneration. Reactive microglial cells were stained intensely and showed a round or pseudopodic morphology. At 3 days, an apparent increase in the number of tomato lectin-positive cells was observed in the areas undergoing neuronal death. By 7 days after the injection, the lesion became nonprogressive, and by 14 and 28 days, microglial cells showed moderate lectin binding and a more ramified morphology.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)361-374
    JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 1996


    • cortex
    • development
    • glia
    • lectin histochemistry
    • secondary degeneration


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