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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Degeneration of the dendritic arbor as an index of neurotoxicity in identified catecholamine neurons in rat brain slices.

Although catecholamine neurons are vulnerable targets for neurotoxins and degenerative disease, few in vitro studies have investigated the mechanisms of neurodegeneration in these cells. We therefore developed a brain slice preparation for this purpose. Rats were killed by cervical dislocation and 400-microm-thick horizontal slices containing midbrain catecholamine neurons were incubated for 2 h in the presence or absence of kainic acid (KA, 50 microM). After fixation, the slices were recut by a technique that provided thin (40 microm) sections in the same plane as the parent slice. Catecholamine neurons in these coplanar sections were labeled by immunostaining for tyrosine hydroxylase ( TH) coupled with diaminobenzidine. The topographical organization of the horizontal plane of the brain was retained in the coplanar sections, enabling precise identification of catecholamine neurons in the thin sections, by reference to an atlas in the horizontal plane. In this study we examined neurons in the substantia nigra (SN). A key feature of the immunostaining was that it revealed both the cell body and also the extensive dendritic projections of SN neurons in the horizontal plane. After treatment with KA, cell bodies remained intact but the dendrites were truncated or fragmented. The loss of dendrites is a sensitive and readily quantifiable indicator of damage. KA caused significant reductions in the proportion of SN neurons with intact dendrites and in the total length of the dendrites, measured using a computer program. The sensitive index of damage and the facility to clearly distinguish catecholamine groups that are topographically close yet functionally distinct are the principal features of the experimental approach that we have developed. The preparation offers major advantages for investigating the selective vulnerability or resistance of particular types of catecholamine neurons to damage.[1]


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