The time course and pattern of reinnervation of noradrenergic (NA) sympathetic nerve fibers into the spleen following acute chemical sympathectomy with the catecholamine neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) was examined in young adult male Fischer 344 rats using glyoxylic acid fluorescence histochemistry and neurochemical measurement of NE. Reinnervation proceeds initially along the splenic artery as it enters the hilus (1-5 days), extends into the hilar region (5-10 days), and later proceeds into the regions distal to the hilus (21-56 days), suggestive of orderly growth from the hilar region to distal regions. In all 6-OHDA-treated spleens, the compartmentation of NA innervation was similar to that observed in saline-injected controls, but the density of NA nerve fibers in these compartments differed according to the distance from the hilus. By 56 days postlesion, regions distal to the hilar blood vessels contained fewer NA profiles than their age-matched controls, suggesting that the anatomical process of reinnervation does not restore the density of fibers in a fashion identical to that of nondenervated controls. In contrast, splenic NE concentration at 56 days postdenervation did not differ from the concentration seen in nondenervated control spleens. We suggest that functional restoration of splenic innervation may involve metabolic and receptor compensation for the lack of complete fiber regrowth into regions of white pulp distal from the hilus. © 1990.
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