In the present study, immunohistochemical stainings for OX-6, OX-42, nitric oxide synthase I and II as well as nitrotyrosine were used to investigate possible correlation among microglial reactivity, nitric oxide synthase upregulation, peroxynitrite involvement and neuronal death in the nucleus dorsalis and red nucleus following lower thoracic spinal cord hemisection. Significant neuronal loss was found in the ipsilateral nucleus dorsalis and contralateral red nucleus after cord hemisection. A distinctive microglial reaction for OX-42 could be observed from one to four weeks post axotomy in the ipsilateral nucleus dorsalis; by contrast, it was observed on both sides of the red nucleus from one to three weeks following cord hemisection. The activated microglial cells showed some degree of hypertrophy. From the microglial immunoreactivity as well as their appearance, it was speculated that microglial activation might be beneficial or protective to the axotomized neurons. In normal and sham-operated rats, neurons of the nucleus dorsalis were not nitric oxide synthase I reactive. Three weeks after cord hemisection, neurons in the ipsilateral nucleus dorsalis below the lesion showed strong immunoreactivity. Neurons in the red nucleus that normally displayed weak nitric oxide synthase I immunoreactivity showed an increase on both sides of the nucleus. These results suggested that nitric oxide synthase I expression in the nucleus dorsalis following axotomy was synthesized de novo and might act as a neurotoxic agent. However, the bilateral increase in expression of nitric oxide synthase I in the red nucleus after lower thoracic cord hemisection was clue to up-regulation of the constitutive enzyme and might have some neuroprotective function. Our results also suggested that peroxynitrite played no or little role in the neurodegeneration in the nucleus dorsalis and red nucleus following axotomy.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mei_xu/13/