The fate of axons subjected to traumatic ultrastructural (neurofilament) compaction: An electron-microscopic study

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By means of a new head-injury apparatus, a 0.75-mm-deep depression was produced momentarily at a predetermined site of the rat calvaria. This immediately evoked ultrastructural (neurofilament) compaction in many myelinated axon segments in layers IV and V of the neocortex under the impact site. The affected axon segments run quasi-parallel to the brain surface in a diffuse distribution among normal axons. Other kinds of damage to the brain tissue were insignificant; the conditions were therefore favorable for investigation of the fate of the compacted axons. Quantitative analysis of the findings on groups of ten rats that were sacrificed either immediately after the head injury or following a 1 day or a 1 week survival period showed that around 50% of the compacted axons recovered in 1 day, and a further less than 10% did so in 1 week. Electron microscopy revealed that the non-recovering compacted axons underwent a sequence of degenerative morphological changes including homogenization, fragmentation and resorption of the fragments. However, the myelin sheaths around these degenerating axons remained apparently unchanged even in the long-surviving rats, and hardly any phagocytotic cells were encountered. On the other hand, many such myelin sheaths contained axolemma-bound, normal-looking axoplasm besides the above morphological signs of axon-degeneration. It is concluded that the non-recovering compacted axons undergo an uncommon (non-Wallerian) kind of degeneration, which is mostly reversible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalActa neuropathologica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2006


  • Degeneration
  • Electron microscopy
  • Recovery
  • Regeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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