Effects of Axotomy on Distribution and Concentration of Elements in Rat Sciatic Nerve

Richard M. LoPachin, Vicki R. LoPachin, Albert J. Saubermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Abstract: X‐ray microprobe analysis was used to determine the effects of axotomy on distribution and concentration (millimoles of element per kilogram dry weight) of Na, P, Cl, K, and Ca in frozen, unfixed sections of rat sciatic nerve. Elemental concentrations were measured in axoplasm, mitochondria, and myelin at 8, 16, and 48 h after transection in small‐, medium‐, and large‐diameter fibers. In addition, elemental composition was determined in extraaxonal space (EAS) and Schwann cell cytoplasm. During the initial 16 h following transection, axoplasm of small fibers exhibited a decrease in dry weight concentrations of K and Cl, whereas Na and P increased compared to control values. Similar changes were observed in mitochondria of small axons, except for an early, large increase in Ca content. In contrast, intraaxonal compartments of larger fibers showed increased dry weight levels of K and P, with no changes in Na or Ca concentrations. Both Schwann cell cytoplasm and EAS at 8 and 16 h after injury had significant increases in Na, K, and Cl dry weight concentrations, whereas no changes, other than an increase in Ca, were observed in myelin. Regardless of fiber size, 48 h after transection, axoplasm and mitochondria displayed marked increases in Na, Cl, and Ca concentrations associated with decreased K. Also at 48 h, both Schwann cell cytoplasm and EAS had increased dry weight concentrations of Na, Cl, and K. The results of this study indicate that, in response to nerve transection, elemental content and distribution are altered according to a specific temporal pattern. This sequence of change, which occurs first in small axons, precedes the onset of Wallerian degeneration in transected nerves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-332
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Axotomy
  • Digital x‐ray imaging
  • Elemental composition
  • Nerve transaction
  • Peripheral nerve injury
  • X‐ray microanalysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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