Ectopic dendritogenesis and associated synapse formation in swainsonine-induced neuronal storage disease

S. U. Walkley, D. A. Siegel, S. Wurzelmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Ectopic dendrite growth and new synapse formation are known to occur on select kinds of neurons in a wide variety of neuronal storage diseases. As these changes in connectivity occur just proximal to the axonal initial segment, it has been hypothesized that they underlie the generation of abnormal neuronal function in these diseases. We have studied certain aspects of this phenomenon through the use of a plant-derived indolizadine alkaloid, swainsonine, which specifically inhibits the lysosomal hydrolase, α-mannosidase. These studies fully document the close morphological similarity between swainsonine-induced and inherited feline α-mannosidosis. This includes the presence of clear and floccule-filled storage vacuoles, as seen with routine EM, and axon hillock neurite growth on select cell types, as seen with Golgi staining. The latter was found only on cortical pyramidal neurons and multipolar cells of amygdala, and these same cell types are known to be involved in ectopic neuritogenesis in other storage diseases. Combined Golgi-electron-microscopic studies demonstrated the presence of normal-appearing synapses on these aberrant neuritic processes and also unusual, membranous inclusions specifically within the neurite-bearing pyramidal cells. The latter may be indicative of unique metabolic changes in these neurons and is consistent with the hypothesis that storage of gangliosides or other glycolipids underlies the recapitulation of dendritic growth features in these diseases. Experimental manipulation of the disease process using the swainsonine model indicated that induction of cortical pyramidal neuron neurite growth could be influenced by both age of onset and intensity of intraneuronal storage. Although Golgi studies clearly demonstrated neuritic sprouting in animals with disease onset as late as at 1 year, cortical pyramidal cells of older, adult animals appeared to undergo significant storage without a similar induction of neurite growth. These studies support the view that induced neuritogenesis in neuronal storage disease is associated with changes in metabolism, specifically within the neurite-bearing cells, that this change possibly involves gangliosides, and that the neuritogenic response may be limited to pre-adult stages of brain maturation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-457
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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