The pattern of remyelination after traumatic spinal cord injury remains elusive, with animal and human studies reporting partial to complete demyelination followed by incomplete remyelination. In the present study, we found that spared rubrospinal tract (RST) axons of passage traced with actively transported dextrans and examined caudally to the lesion 12 weeks after mouse spinal cord contusion injury were fully remyelinated. Spared axons exhibited a marginally reduced myelin thickness and significantly shorter internodes. CASPR(contactin-associated protein) and Kv1.2 channels were used to identify internodes and paranodal protein distribution properties were used as an index of myelin integrity. This is the first time the CNS myelin internode length was measured in a mouse. To better understand the significance of shortened internodes and thinner myelin in spared axons, we modeled conduction properties using McIntyre's et al. model of myelinated axons. Mathematical modeling predicted a21%decrease in the conduction velocity of remyelinated RST axons attributable to shortened internodes. To determine whether demyelination could be present on axons exhibiting a pathological transport system, we used the retroviral reporter system. Virally delivered green fluorescent protein unveiled a small population of dystrophic RST axons that persist chronically with evident demyelination or abnormal remyelination. Collectively, these data show that lasting demyelination in spared axons is rare and that remyelination of axons of passage occurs in the chronically injured mouse spinal cord.
- Spinal cord injury
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