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Region-specific response of central microglial cells to sciatic nerve demyelination through sensory and motor pathways

Wu, S;Su, Y;Wang, Y;Wang, J;Xu, D;Liu, Y;Yang, K;Gao, J;Cui, J;Bai, W;

Peripheral nerve injury can cause changes in microglial cells on the spinal dorsal and ventral horns. This region-specific response implies that central microglial cells could be activated through both sensory and motor pathways. In order to further determine how peripheral nerve injury activates central microglial cells through neural pathways, the sciatic nerve was selected as the target for neural tract tracing and demyelination. Firstly, we used cholera toxin subunit B (CTB) to map the central sensory and motor territories of the sciatic nerve. Secondly, we applied lysophosphatidylcholine to establish the model of sciatic nerve demyelination and examined the distribution of activated microglial cells via immunofluorescence with ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule 1. It was shown that CTB labeling included the transganglionically labeled sensory afferents and retrogradely labeled somata of motor neurons along the sensory and motor pathways of the sciatic nerve ipsilateral to the injection, in which sensory afferents terminated on the gracile nucleus, Clarke's nucleus, and spinal dorsal horn, while motor neurons located on the spinal ventral horn. Consistently, after sciatic axon demyelination, the activated microglial cells were observed in the same territories as CTB-labeling, showing shortened processes and enlarged cell bodies. These results support the idea that central microglia might be activated by signals from the demyelinated sciatic nerve through both sensory and motor pathways.