Progressive atrophy of pyramidal neuron dendrites in autoimmune MRL-lpr mice
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The autoimmune-prone MRL-lpr substrain of mice develop an autoimmunity-associated behavioral syndrome (AABS) which resembles in many respects the behavior of animals exposed to chronic stress. The present study examined whether these mice show changes in the morphology of neuronal dendrites, as found in animals exposed to chronic stress. A modified Golgi-Cox procedure was used to visualize the dendrites of pyramidal neurons in the parietal cortex and in the CA1 hippocampal field of 5-week and 14-week old MRL-lpr mice and MRL + / + controls. Reduced dendritic branching and length, and an up to 20% loss of dendritic spines were observed in parietal and hippocampal pyramidal neurons of MRL-lpr mice at both ages. In the parietal cortex, there was an age-dependent potentiation in the reduction of basilar, but not apical, dendrite branching and length, as well as in the loss of spines on basilar segments. Loss of spines in the hippocampus followed an age-related course for apical but not basilar dendrites. Moreover, compared to age-matched controls, brain weight was smaller in MRL-lpr mice at 14 but not 5 weeks of age. Considering that dendritic atrophy becomes more extensive when autoimmune disease is florid in MRL-lpr mice, it is proposed that immune/inflammatory factor(s) produce dendritic loss. Reduced dendritic complexity may represent, at least in part, a structural basis for the altered behavioral profile of MRL-lpr mice.
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