Nerve growth factor-induced stimulation of dorsal root ganglion/spinal cord co-grafts in oculo: Enhanced survival and growth of CGRP-immunoreactive sensory neurons

Kenneth E. Miller, Elisabet Åkesson, Åke Seiger

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Intraocular co-grafts of rat fetal spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia were used to examine the enhanced survival, growth, and differentiation of sensory neurons by nerve growth factor. E14 lumbar spinal segments were implanted into the anterior eye chamber of capsaicin-pretreated rats. Two weeks later, an E14 dorsal root ganglion was implanted beside the spinal cord graft. Nerve growth factor or vehicle was injected weekly for 4 weeks into the anterior eye chamber. Co-grafts were examined weekly and, at 6 weeks, processed for calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) immunofluorescence. No differences in overall size were determined for the grafts. Co-grafts treated with nerve growth factor contained many more CGRP neurons (19.4 cells/20 μm) that were significantly larger (mean 764 μm2) than neurons from control co-grafts (8.6 cells/20 μm; mean 373 μm2). In co-grafts treated with nerve growth factor, CGRP-immunoreactive fibers were extensive in the dorsal root ganglion, adjacent iris, and spinal cord compared to control co-grafts. A few CGRP-positive motoneurons were observed in the spinal cord, but no differences in number or size of motoneurons were found. The current report demonstrates that spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia can be co-grafted in oculo for long periods of time. Many dorsal root ganglion neurons survive and send peripheral processes into the iris and central processes into the spinal cord under the influence of exogenous nerve growth factor. The intraocular graft paradigm can be of use to further examine the role of neurotrophic factors in regulating or modulating dorsal root ganglion and spinal cord neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-253
Number of pages11
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 1999



  • Dorsal horn
  • Motoneurons
  • Primary afferents
  • Rat (Sprague Dawley)

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