Ultrastructural studies of the dying-back process: VI. Examination of nerve fibers undergoing giant axonal degeneration in organotypic culture

Bellina Veronesi, Edith R. Peterson, Murray B. Bornstein, Peter S. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Organotypic tissue cultures, composed of structurally and functionally coupled explants of mouse spinal cord, dorsal root ganglia, and striated muscle, have been used to create a model of the distal (dying-back) axonopathy found in animals and humans with aliphatic hexacarbon neuropathy. Mature explants were treated with 50-650 μg/ml of the following hexacarbons dissolved in nutrient fluid: n-hexane, 2-hexanol, 2,5-hexancdiol, methyl n-butyl ketone, 5-hydroxy-2-hexanone, 2,5-hexanedione (all neurotoxic), or 2,4-hexanedione (a non-neurotoxic diketone). High concentrations (400-650 μg/ml) induced pancytotoxic damage and necrosis of tissue within days, while the lower doses (50-100 μg/ml) induced no pathological changes over a period of several weeks. Continuous exposure of explants to 245-325 μg/ml (2.8 mW) of the neurotoxic hexacarbons caused specific pathological changes to develop in distal nerve fibers after three to six weeks. Initial changes seen in distal, nonterminal regions of myelinated fibers included: nodal elongation, axonal swellings on proximal-side paranodes, and paranodal myelin retraction. Prolonged treatment was associated with Wallerian-like degeneration of distal nerve fibers. Denuded paranodal swellings in more proximal regions of affected myelinated fibers adopted a more-normal size and underwent remyelination; this occurred during and after the course of treatment. Remyelination by lateral extension from adjacent Schwann cells was documented in living and fixed tissue. The observations confirm the spatial-temporal evolution of hexacarbon distal axonopathy previously suggested from comparable studies in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-165
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • Axons
  • Hexanes, toxicity
  • Nerve degeneration, retrograde
  • Neuropathy
  • Tissue culture
  • Wallerian degeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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