We characterized quantitatively the macrophage response following axonal injury in both the peripheral (PNS) and central nervous system (CNS) of adult mammals. A monoclonal antibody (ED-1) which stains monocytes, macrophages, and activated microglia was employed. In one model, Wallerian degeneration of the sciatic nerve was studied. An increase in the number of macrophages was seen as early as 1 day following nerve transection. Macrophage number increased synchronously along the length of degenerating nerve over a 21-day period. In a second model, transection of a spinal dorsal sensory root allowed us to compare and contrast the macrophage response along the PNS and CNS portions of a single axonal pathway. An increased number of macrophages restricted to the PNS portion of this pathway was seen by 3 days and continued to increase over a 14-day period. Myelin breakdown occurred in association with an increase in the number of macrophages by 3 days in the PNS but not the CNS portion of the degenerating dorsal root axon pathway. Low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor immunohistochemical staining increased by Day 1 in the PNS but not the CNS portion of this pathway, occurring prior to the invasion of macrophages. In both models, the morphology of infiltrating macrophages changed over time from small slender ramified cells to large elongated multivacuolated cells. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that the macrophage response during Wallerian degeneration of axons in adult mammals is much more rapid and robust in the PNS, where axonal regeneration occurs, than in the CNS, where axonal regeneration is far more limited.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience