The Immunosuppressant Mycophenolate Mofetil Improves Preservation of the Perforant Path in Organotypic Hippocampal Slice Cultures: A Retrograde Tracing Study

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Previous studies with excitotoxically lesioned organotypic hippocampal slice cultures (OHSC) have revealed that the immunosuppressant mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) inhibits microglial activation and suppresses neuronal injury in the dentate gyrus. We here investigate whether MMF also has beneficial effects on axon survival in a longrange projection, the perforant path. Complex OHSC including the entorhinal cortex were obtained from Wistar rats (p8); the plane of section ensuring that perforant path integrity was preserved. These preparations were cultured for 9 days in vitro with or without MMF (100 μg/ml). After fixation, the perforant path was retrogradely labeled by application of the fluorescent dye DiI (1,1′-dioctadecyl-3,3,3′,3′-tetramethylindo-carbocyanine) in the hilus of the dentate gyrus, and neuronal perikarya were immunohistochemically stained by the neuron-specific marker NeuN. Analysis of DiI-labeled and NeuN-stained OHSC by confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed double-labeled neurons in the entorhinal cortex, which projected to the dentate gyrus via the perforant path. Quantitative analysis showed that the number of these double-labeled neurons was 19-fold higher in OHSC treated with MMF than in control cultures (P < 0.05). Our findings indicate that MMF treatment improves preservation of the perforant path and encourage further studies on development and regeneration of long-range projections under the influence of immunosuppressants.

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