Adult opossums (Didelphis virginiana) demonstrate near normal locomotion after spinal cord transection as neonates

X. M. Wang, D. M. Basso, J. R. Terman, J. C. Bresnahan, G. F. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


When the thoracic spinal cord of the North American opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is transected on postnatal day (PD) 5, the site of injury becomes bridged by histologically recognizable spinal cord and axons which form major long tracts grow through the lesion. In the present study we asked whether opossums lesioned on PD5 have normal use of the hindlimbs as adults and, if so, whether that use is dependent upon axons which grow through the lesion site. The thoracic spinal cord was transected on PD5 and 6 months later, hindlimb function was evaluated using the Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor scale. All animals supported their weight with the hindlimbs and used their hindlimbs normally during overground locomotion. In some cases, the spinal cord was retransected at the original lesion site or just caudal to it 6 months after the original transection and paralysis of the hindlimbs ensued. Surprisingly, however, these animals gradually recovered some ability to support their weight and to step with the hindlimbs. Similar recovery was not seen in animals transected only as adults. In order to verify that descending axons which grew through the lesion during development were still present in the adult animal, opossums subjected to transection of the thoracic cord on PD5 were reoperated and Fast blue was injected several segments caudal to the lesion. In all cases, neurons were labeled rostral to the lesion in each of the spinal and supraspinal nuclei labeled by comparable injections in unlesioned, age-matched controls. The results of orthograde tracing studies indicated that axons which grew through the lesion innervated areas that were appropriate for them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-69
Number of pages20
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1998


  • Plasticity
  • Raphespinal
  • Regeneration
  • Reticulospinal
  • Rubrospinal
  • Vestibulospina l

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Adult opossums (Didelphis virginiana) demonstrate near normal locomotion after spinal cord transection as neonates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this