Development of long-distance efferent projections from fetal hippocampal grafts depends upon pathway specificity and graft location in kainate-lesioned adult hippocampus.
Fetal hippocampal cells grafted into the excitotoxically lesioned hippocampus of adult rats are capable of extending axonal projections into the host brain. We hypothesize that the axonal growth of grafted fetal cells into specific host targets, and the establishment of robust long-distance efferent graft projections, require placement of fetal cells in close proximity to appropriate axon guidance pathways. Intracerebroventricular administration of kainic acid in adult rats leads to a specific loss of hippocampal CA3 pyramidal neurons. We grafted 5'-bromodeoxyuridine-labeled embryonic day 19 hippocampal cells into adult hippocampus at four days post-kainic acid lesion, and quantitatively measured the projection of grafted cells into the contralateral hippocampus and the septum after three to four months survival using Fluoro-Gold and 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine (Dil) tracing. Grafts located in or near the degenerated CA3 cell layer exhibited numerous neurons which established commissural projections with the contralateral hippocampus. However, such projection did not occur in intrahippocampal grafts located away from the CA3 cell layer. In contrast, neurons in all grafts established robust projections into the septum regardless of location within hippocampus although grafts located near the degenerated CA3 cell layer displayed more neurons with such projections. Location of grafted cells clearly influences the development of efferent graft projections into distant targets in the adult host brain, particularly access to axon guidance pathways to facilitate the formation of projections. The establishment of robust long-distance commissural projections of fetal hippocampal grafts is clearly dependent on their placement in or near the degenerated CA3 cell layer, suggesting that appropriate axon guidance pathways for commissural pathways are tightly focussed near this cell layer. However, the establishment of septal projections of these grafts was not dependent on specific location within the CA3 cell layer, suggesting that axonal guidance mechanisms to the septum are more diffuse and not limited to the CA3 dendritic layers. The results underscore that fetal hippocampal grafts are capable of partly restoring lesioned hippocampal circuitry in adult animals when appropriately placed in the host hippocampus.
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