Degeneration and graft-induced restoration of dopamine innervation in the weaver mouse neostriatum: a quantitative radioautographic study of [3H]dopamine uptake

G. Doucet, P. Brundin, S. Seth, Y. Murata, R. E. Strecker, L. C. Triarhou, B. Ghetti, A. Björklund

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A recently introduced quantitative radioautographic technique was used to characterize the striatal dopaminergic deficit in weaver mutant mice and to evaluate the extent of DA reinnervation resulting from cell suspension grafts of fetal ventral mesencephalic tissue. Brain slices from normal mice and unilaterally grafted weaver mice were incubated in [3H]DA, in the presence of desipramine and pargyline, 3-5 months after graft surgery. Semi-thin sections from the fixed and resin-embedded slices were subsequently exposed on tritium sensitive film and afterwards dipped in nuclear emulsion for light microscope radioautography. Alternate slices were embedded in Epon for post-embedding tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunocytochemistry. The grain density of the film radioautographs matched well the distribution of TH positive fibers. Both methods revealed an almost complete absence of DA axons in the dorsomedial quadrant of the weaver neostriatum and an increasing density of DA innervation towards the ventrolateral areas. In the light microscope radioautographs, only the ventral striatum (i.e. nucleus accumbens and olfactory tubercle) and a narrow ventral and periventricular zone of the caudate-putamen were covered by silver grain clusters typical of DA varicosity labeling. Such labeled varicosities were nevertheless found in reduced numbers in the lateral portion of both nucleus accumbens and the olfactory tubercle. The remaining neostriatum was overlaid by diffuse silver grains, suggesting a deficient DA uptake and storage mechanism in the residual DA fibers in this region. Immunocytochemistry using antibodies specific for DA or TH provided further evidence that the residual DA innervation in the weaver neostriatum was biochemically defective. Weaver mice with grafts of ventral mesencephalic tissue in the right neostriatum showed an amphetamine-induced rotational bias to the contralateral side, which was not seen in the sham-operated animals. In contrast to the intrinsic weaver neostriatal DA innervation, DA fibers of graft origin exhibited the normal, clustered type of varicosity labeling. The computerized image analysis of silver grain density in film radioautographs was calibrated by counting these labeled varicosities in selected areas of light microscope radioautographs from the same sections. Results showed a mean DA reinnervation of neostriatal tissue surrounding the graft of about 20%, in some cases up to 80%, of the density seen in wild type mice, with a gradual decrease with distance up to 1-1.4 mm from the graft. The ventral parts of the neostriatum, which contained higher numbers of residual intrinsic DA fibers, were much more sparsely reinnervated than the dorsal and dorsomedial areas. These data show that a quantitatively significant DA reinnervation of the weaver neostriatum can be provided by fetal mesencephalic cell suspension grafts and that these DA fibers become functional, at least with respect to their DA uptake and storage mechanisms, in a neostriatal environment where intrinsic weaver DA axons are strongly deficient. However, observations in long-term weaver mice (9 months after transplantation) suggested that the graft-derived DA fiber outgrowth was reduced with time in the affected striatum, in spite of good survival of the grafted neurones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-568
Number of pages17
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 1989


  • Dopamine
  • Neural transplantation
  • Uptake radioautography
  • Weaver mutant mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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