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Experimental Lead Neuropathy: Ultrastructural And Molecular Changes In The Rat Sciatic Nerve

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Experimental lead intoxication is an important model for the study of cellular and molecular mechanisms of segmental demyelination in peripheral nerve. In this report we have compared pathological changes with the molecular and immunohistochemical expression of the proteins of compact and non-compact myelin in the demyelinating neuropathy induced in Sprague-Dawley rats after chronic administration (3 and 6 months) of lead acetate in drinking water. All the rats underwent the neurophysiological determination of the conduction velocity in the tail nerve at baseline and 3, 4.5 and 6 months after the beginning of the lead acetate administration. At the end of the treatment period the rats were sacrificed and sciatic nerve specimens were obtained. The neurophysiological study demonstrated a significant decrease in the nerve conduction velocity, which was already evident at the first determination (3 months) and persisted along the entire experiment. The neurophysiological results were in agreement with the pathological observations performed in the sciatic nerve, where several large demyelinated fibers were observed in the lead-intoxicated rats. Northern and Western blot analysis demonstrated that steady state mRNA and protein levels for P0, MBP, PMP22 and PLP were not changed comparing treated and control rats. Immunohistochemistry on teased fibers revealed that those proteins were distributed in areas of compact myelin along the internodes. In control fibers, as expected, MAG was found in the periaxonal cytoplasm, at nodes of Ranvier, and in the Schmidt-Lanterman incisures. In lead neuropathy, MAG was still limited to discrete regions, but the intensity of staining was reduced, in accordance with changes of paranodal structures. Immunohistochemical localization of other proteins of non-compacted myelin, including connexin-32, E-cadherin and β-catenin was also examined. Our data further suggest that chronic lead intoxication in the rat produces segmental demyelination due primarily to Schwann cell dysfunction.
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Document Type: Abstract

Affiliations: Clin Neurol, Univ Milano, IRCCS Osp Maggiore, Milano

Publication date: March 1, 2001

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