The extent of cell death after axotomy may limit potential recovery after brain injury. We wished to determine the effect of axotomizing lesions on survival of transcallosally projecting cortical neurons. Transcallosal neurons were prelabeled by retrograde transport of the fluorescent dyes Fluoro-Gold and True Blue. A transcortical stab wound divided the field of labeled cortical cells into axotomized and unaxotomized groups. Little difference in labeled cell density was seen over the first few days after injury. Animals surviving at least 2 weeks after injury had clear loss of axotomized neurons. By 1 month after injury, the vast majority of axotomized labeled cells appeared to have died. Quantitative evaluation of labeled cells showed that the region of cortex within 1 mm of the axotomizing injury had less than 10% of the expected neuronal density in animals surviving at least 4 weeks after injury. Close axotomy appears to cause dramatic loss of transcallosal neurons even in adult animals.
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