Alteration in axial motoneuronal morphology in the spinal cord injured spastic rat

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54 Scopus citations


Following spinal cord injury (SCI), exaggerated reflexes and muscle tone emerge that contribute to a general spastic syndrome in humans. At present, the underlying mechanisms involved with the development of spasticity following traumatic spinal cord injury, especially with regard to axial musculature, remains unclear. The purpose of the present study was to examine the temporal changes in sacrocaudal motoneuronal morphology following complete transection of the sacral spinal cord and to correlate these changes with the onset and progression of spasticity within the tail musculature. The spinal cords of rats were transected at the upper sacral (S2) level. Animals were behaviorally tested for the onset and progression of spasticity in the tail and at 1, 2, 4, or 12 weeks postinjury were sacrificed. At these time points, the animals demonstrated stage 1, 2, 3, or 4 spastic behavior, respectively. Sacrocaudal motoneurons innervating selected flexor muscles within the tail were retrogradely labeled with cholera toxin β-subunit and neuronal morphology was analyzed using a combination of immunocytochemistry and standard microscopy. Initially over the first 2 weeks postinjury, a transient increase in the lengths of primary and secondary dendrites occurred. However, a progressive decrease in the overall number of dendritic branches was observed between 2 and 12 weeks postinjury, which parallels the time frame for the progressive increase in spastic behavior in the tail musculature. Following spinal cord injury, there is an alteration in the morphology of tail flexor motoneurons, which may be relevant to the development of spasticity within the tail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-108
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a University of Kentucky Medical Center Research Grant 208101. The author would like to thank Dr. Susan Queen for critical input to the manuscript.


  • Cholera toxin B subunit
  • Dendrite
  • Sacrocaudal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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