Rescue of axotomized rubrospinal neurons by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the developing opossum, Didelphis virginiana

Xian M. Wang, Jonathan R. Terman, George F. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Many rubrospinal neurons die in developing opossums when their axon is cut at thoracic levels of the spinal cord and in the present study we asked whether they can be rescued by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Bilateral injections of Fast Blue (FB) were made into the rostral lumbar cord to prelabel rubrospinal neurons and 5 days later the rubrospinal tract was cut unilaterally by hemisecting the thoracic cord. Immediately after hemisection, BDNF-soaked gelfoam was placed into the lesion cavity. Since pilot data indicated that one application of BDNF was not sufficient to produce a rescue effect, a second application was made 7 days later. Seven days after the second application the pups were killed by an overdose of anesthetic so that the red nucleus contralateral and ipsilateral to the lesion site could be examined for labeled neurons. The rubrospinal tract is almost entirely crossed, so the red nucleus contralateral to the lesion contained many axotomized neurons, whereas the red nucleus ipsilateral to it did not. Age-matched controls were subjected to the same procedures, but the gelfoam applied to the lesion site in the experimental animals was soaked only in the vehicle used to deliver BDNF. In all cases, labeled neurons were fewer in number in the red nucleus contralateral to the lesion than ipsilateral to it. It was of particular interest, however, that labeled neurons contralateral to the lesion were more numerous in the animals treated with BDNF than in the controls. We conclude that BDNF rescues at least some rubrospinal neurons from axotomy-induced cell death in developing opossums suggesting that loss of access to BDNF, and perhaps other neurotrophins, contributes to failure of rubrospinal neurons to survive axotomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-184
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Dec 10 1999


  • Degeneration
  • Marsupial
  • Neurotrophins
  • Plasticity
  • Red nucleus
  • Regeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Rescue of axotomized rubrospinal neurons by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the developing opossum, Didelphis virginiana'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this