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BioMed Research International
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 5953674, 12 pages
Research Article

Retrograde Activation of the Extrinsic Apoptotic Pathway in Spinal-Projecting Neurons after a Complete Spinal Cord Injury in Lampreys

1Department of Functional Biology, CIBUS, Faculty of Biology, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain
2Shriners Hospitals Pediatric Research Center (Center for Neural Repair and Rehabilitation), Temple University School of Medicine, 3500 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Michael I. Shifman; ude.elpmet@namfihsm

Received 31 July 2017; Accepted 25 October 2017; Published 19 November 2017

Academic Editor: Antoni Camins

Copyright © 2017 Antón Barreiro-Iglesias et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating condition that leads to permanent disability because injured axons do not regenerate across the trauma zone to reconnect to their targets. A prerequisite for axonal regeneration will be the prevention of retrograde degeneration that could lead to neuronal death. However, the specific molecular mechanisms of axotomy-induced degeneration of spinal-projecting neurons have not been elucidated yet. In lampreys, SCI induces the apoptotic death of identifiable descending neurons that are “bad regenerators/poor survivors” after SCI. Here, we investigated the apoptotic process activated in identifiable descending neurons of lampreys after SCI. For this, we studied caspase activation by using fluorochrome-labeled inhibitors of caspases, the degeneration of spinal-projecting neurons using Fluro-Jade C staining, and the involvement of the intrinsic apoptotic pathway by means of cytochrome c and V double immunofluorescence. Our results provide evidence that, after SCI, bad-regenerating spinal cord-projecting neurons slowly degenerate and that the extrinsic pathway of apoptosis is involved in this process. Experiments using the microtubule stabilizer Taxol showed that caspase-8 signaling is retrogradely transported by microtubules from the site of axotomy to the neuronal soma. Preventing the activation of this process could be an important therapeutic approach after SCI in mammals.