Enriched environment after focal cortical ischemia enhances the generation of astroglia and NG2 positive polydendrocytes in adult rat neocortex

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Environmental enrichment (EE) alleviates sensorimotor deficits after brain infarcts but the cellular correlates are not well-known. This study aimed to test the effects of postischemic EE on neocortical cell genesis. A neocortical infarct was caused by distal ligation of the middle cerebral artery in adult spontaneously hypertensive rats, subsequently housed in standard environment or EE. Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) was administered during the first postischemic week to label proliferating cells and BrdU incorporation was quantified 4 weeks later in the periinfarct, ipsilateral medial and contralateral cortex. Immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy were used to analyze co-localization of BrdU with neuronal (calbindin D28k, calretinin, parvalbumin, glutamic acid decarboxylase, tyrosine hydroxylase), astrocytic (glial fibrillary acidic protein, glutamine synthetase, vimentin, nestin), microglia/macrophage (CD11b/Ox-42, CD68/ED-1), oligodendrocyte progenitor/polydendrocyte (NG2, platelet-derived growth factor alpha receptor) or mature oligodendrocyte (myelin basic protein) markers. BrdU positive cells were increased in all analyzed cortical regions in stroke EE rats compared with stroke standard environment rats. Newly born cells in the periinfarct cortex were mostly reactive astroglia. Occasionally, BrdU positive cells in the periinfarct cortex that were negative for glial or microglia/macrophage markers co-expressed markers typical for interneurons but did not express appropriate functional markers. The majority of BrdU positive cells in intact cortical regions, ipsi- and contralaterally, were identified as NG2 positive polydendrocytes. Perineuronally situated newly born cells and polydendrocytes were found to be brain-derived neurotrophic factor immunoreactive. In conclusion, EE enhanced newborn glial scar astroglia and NG2+ polydendrocytes in the postischemic neocortex which might be beneficial for brain repair and poststroke plasticity.

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