Neurofilament proteins are critical to the development and maintenance of neuronal shape in the nervous system. These proteins are developmentally regulated and several transition forms are expressed, prior to full neuronal stabilization. We have studied the spatial distribution and time course of expression of non-phosphorylated neurofilament protein (NPNFP) immunoreactivity in several preparations of rat hippocampus, using a mixture (SMI 311) of several monoclonal antibodies directed against NPNFP epitopes. Differential staining was observed in young and adult hippocampus. Large pyramidal neurons in CA3 and CA4 subfields were strongly immunoreactive in adult hippocampus whereas the smaller CA1 pyramidal neurons, most interneurons and dentate granule cells were immunonegative. SMI 311 staining initially appeared at postnatal day (P) 5 with positive staining in apical dendrites and soma in a few pyramidal neurons in CA3, but almost reached the adult pattern by P10. Compared to adult hippocampus, the number of immunoreactive interneurons in all subfields appeared increased at P10 and P15. In cultures of embryonic hippocampus, all neurons, regardless of their morphology, were SMI 311 positive, suggesting loss of differential expression in tissue culture conditions. However, SMI 311 expression in fetal hippocampal neurons grafted to adult hippocampus was similar to hippocampal neurons which had developed in situ. These results suggest that SMI 311 antibody identifies a distinct group of primarily CA3 and CA4 pyramidal cells in adult hippocampus. The application of SMI 311 immunostaining appears suitable for identification of large CA3 and CA4 pyramidal neurons within hippocampal transplants grafted to adult CNS but not in tissue culture. © 1995 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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